Rosa Luxemburg: A Revolutionary Marxist at the Limits of Marxism (Marx, Engels, and Marxisms) [1st ed. 2021] 3030674851, 9783030674854

This book analyses the development of Rosa Luxemburg (1871–1919) as an outstanding Marxist thinker and socialist politic

163 15 2MB

English Pages 276 [268] Year 2021

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Polecaj historie

Rosa Luxemburg: A Revolutionary Marxist at the Limits of Marxism (Marx, Engels, and Marxisms) [1st ed. 2021]
 3030674851, 9783030674854

Table of contents :
Title
Preface—Memories for the Future
Bibliography
Titles Published
Titles Forthcoming
Contents
1 Show Us the Miracle! Where Is Your Miracle?
To Be Oneself in the World
In Prison: With Herself and in the World
Speaking Truth—Living Truth
Freedom Is Always the Freedom of the Others
Bibliography
2 The Blighted Authority of Engels and Kautsky
Returning to Marx—but to Which One?
The Maximal Programme and the Minimal Programme
Settling Accounts with ‘Ersatz Marxism’
Failing to Understand One’s Own Situation
Bibliography
3 The ‘Fully Fledged Marxist’ and the Polish Question
The Founding of the Social Democracy Movement in Poland and Its Two Factions
Luxemburg’s Dissertation ‘The Industrial Development of Poland’
A Return to the Polish Question—1908–1909
Bibliography
4 Revolutionary Realpolitik
New Questions for Old Answers
The Strategy of the SPD from 1891
Bernstein’s Total Revision of Marxism
The Hammer Blow of the Revolution
The Unity of Marxism and Socialism
Bibliography
5 The Millerand Case—Socialist Participation in Government as a Test Case of Theory and Strategy
The Bone of Contention
The Gap Between Marxist Theory and Socialist Practice
Rosa Luxemburg’s Formulation of the Problem
Capitalism and the Class State
The Bourgeois State as Barrier Between Capitalism and Socialism
Socialist Politics in the Bourgeois State
The Struggle for the Democratisation of Democracy and the Question of Violence
Conclusion
Bibliography
6 The Electric Age of Unexpected Developments: The 1905 Russian Revolution
General Strike, Debate on Organisation and Political Leadership
Lessons from the 1905 Russian Revolution
Defeat as a Path to Victory
Freedom for the Enemy
Bibliography
7 On the Defensive
The SPD at the Crossroads
Against ‘Nothing-but-Parliamentarism’ and ‘Nothing-but-Action’
The Great War and the Search for a Strategic Response
Bibliography
8 The Imperialist Age and the Accumulation of Capital
‘Help Me Figure Something Out—But Quickly!’
Society as a Cultural Organism
Capitalism as an Impossible World Form
Politico-Economical Foundations of a New Strategy
Bibliography
9 Rosa Luxemburg’s Symphony on the Russian Revolution
The Prehistory
Luxemburg’s Criticism of the Bolsheviks: Too Little Socialism, Too Little Democracy
The Anticipated Harmony of Opposites: Necessity and Freedom
Bibliography
10 Beyond Social Democrats and Bolsheviks
Revolutionary Leadership and Self-Empowerment
Revolution in Russia—An Alternative Strategy
How the Bolsheviks ‘Won’ the Revolution and Made Luxemburg’s Nightmares Come True
Bibliography
11 The November Revolution: A New Beginning Violently Interrupted
Socialism as the Order of the Day
Programmatic Renewal and the Founding of the KPD
The Alternatives of the Age: Socialism or Barbarism
Socialism as Free Self-Determination
The Next Tasks in the Revolution
The Self-Understanding of the Spartacus League
The January Uprising in Berlin and Government Terror
Bibliography
12 Spat at, Adored, but Also Indispensable?
Bibliography

Citation preview

Marx, Engels, and Marxisms

Series Editors Marcello Musto, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada Terrell Carver, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

The Marx renaissance is underway on a global scale. Wherever the critique of capitalism re-emerges, there is an intellectual and political demand for new, critical engagements with Marxism. The peer-reviewed series Marx, Engels and Marxisms (edited by Marcello Musto & Terrell Carver, with Babak Amini, Francesca Antonini, Paula Rauhala & Kohei Saito as Assistant Editors) publishes monographs, edited volumes, critical editions, reprints of old texts, as well as translations of books already published in other languages. Our volumes come from a wide range of political perspectives, subject matters, academic disciplines and geographical areas, producing an eclectic and informative collection that appeals to a diverse and international audience. Our main areas of focus include: the oeuvre of Marx and Engels, Marxist authors and traditions of the 19th and 20th centuries, labour and social movements, Marxist analyses of contemporary issues, and reception of Marxism in the world.

More information about this series at http://www.palgrave.com/gp/series/14812

Michael Brie · Jörn Schütrumpf

Rosa Luxemburg A Revolutionary Marxist at the Limits of Marxism

Michael Brie Institut für Gesellschaftsanalyse Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Berlin, Germany

Jörn Schütrumpf Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Berlin, Germany

ISSN 2524-7123 ISSN 2524-7131 (electronic) Marx, Engels, and Marxisms ISBN 978-3-030-67485-4 ISBN 978-3-030-67486-1 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67486-1 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover image: © supplied by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Berlin This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

Communism […] – to hell with the reality of it, but may God save it as a constant threat to the propertied classes. God save communism so that the cheeky riff-raff does not grow even cheekier, so that the society of those with the exclusive license for hedonism […] may at least go to bed with heartburn! So that they shall at least no longer feel like preaching morals to their victims and shall cease making jokes at their expense. Karl Kraus … to banish parties as parties, as tendencies, from the surface by police-measures, to remove them from the light of day, was, for Rosa Luxemburg, an impossible idea: not for the sake of the reformists, but for that of the revolution and the revolutionaries themselves, who can also triumph inwardly only if they combat mistakes freely. For the experience that revolutionaries gain from the struggle against reformism cannot be replaced by any leader, police-force or Cheka. They have to gain this experience in their own struggle. Paul Levi

Preface---Memories for the Future

The political left has only rarely managed to convey its abstract ideas of freedom and emancipation of the individual, and of society as a whole, in such a way that less politicised people could relate to them, and indeed be drawn towards them. The left has often tried to compensate for this by having freedom fighters from the distant past attest to its good intentions. Let us remember Spartacus—who in 1916, quite by chance, became the figurehead of the revolutionary movement led by Rosa Luxemburg, Leo Jogiches, Franz Mehring and Karl Liebknecht1 — the Brothers Gracchus, Thomas Müntzer, Tommaso Campanella, Jacques Roux, Gracchus Babeuf, Charles Fourier, Robert Owen, Friedrich Engels, Mikhail Bakunin, Ferdinand Lassalle and Peter Kropotkin. Later, figures such as August Bebel, Clara Zetkin, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Augusto Sandino, Karl Liebknecht, Leon Trotsky, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung,

1 Spartakusgruppe (Spartacus League): Formed as Gruppe Internationale on 2nd January

1915 on the initiative of Rosa Luxemburg and the historian of the labour movement Franz Mehring, in protest against the SPD’s support of the war. Soon the name Spartakusgruppe became common, following the publication of the ‘Spartakusbriefe’ (Spartacus Letters) by the Gruppe Internationale. Its members were systematically persecuted because of their illegal propagandist work and its leaders, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, imprisoned. Renamed the Spartacus League on 9 November 1918 and possessing organisational independence, the group became—alongside the International Communists of Germany— the organisational and political core of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), which then took over the leadership of the Spartacus League.

vii

viii

PREFACE—MEMORIES FOR THE FUTURE

Patrice Lumumba, Ho Chi Minh and Frantz Fanon were also invoked. At demonstrations nowadays, however, wherever they take place, these figures are almost always conspicuously absent—with a few exceptions. One German Jew from Trier is ever-present, yet so ubiquitous that he is often forgotten: Karl Marx. Alongside Marx, there are three other individuals whose images are also consistently displayed: a Polish Jew who was heinously murdered in Germany, an Argentinean whose killers caught up with him in Bolivia in 1967 and an Italian who was finally released from prison by the Fascists in 1937 after years of incarceration—only to die shortly thereafter. These three people are Rosa Luxemburg, Ernesto Che Guevara and Antonio Gramsci, all of whom embody not only the rare unity of word and action, but also an independence of thought that refused to be made subordinate to any doctrine or apparatus. All three also paid for their convictions with their lives, although they were murdered by their enemies rather than by those from their own camp, as was so often the case in the twentieth century. Rosa Luxemburg and Antonio Gramsci also have something else in common: they never had to exercise state power themselves, nor were they obliged to tarnish their names by participating in a dictatorial or totalitarian regime. Luxemburg, a long-time Social Democrat who went on to become a co-founder of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), did not live to see the rise of Stalin; in January 1919, she was pistolwhipped and then executed with a shot to the back. Gramsci, another Social Democrat turned Communist, who himself went on to help found the Italian Communist Party, was imprisoned in Italy from 1928 until he fell chronically ill. Of the three only Ernesto Che Guevara participated in government, in revolutionary Cuba, although ever the partisan, he was not to remain there for long. Up to this day, Guevara continues to inspire the youth, while Gramsci has consistently retained an appeal for intellectuals. When it comes to Rosa Luxemburg, however, most are only familiar with her name and fate, but not with her thought and work—or if they are familiar with these, then mostly only as caricatures. The socialism of the twentieth century, fraught as it is with backstabbing, betrayal, humiliations, subordinations, torture and murder, weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living, but also presents opportunities that are often overlooked. Unlike during the pre-1917 period, socialism is no longer a vague idea. We now have 70 years of

PREFACE—MEMORIES FOR THE FUTURE

ix

practice from which we can learn not only how to persistently discredit the idea of socialism, but also what socialism certainly is not. A nightmare, to be sure—and yet one that can be of use to those who have not yet let go of the desire to overthrow ‘all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved, abandoned, despicable being’ (Marx 2010, 182). No matter what attitude the left takes to 70 years of practice of ‘really existing socialism’, the entire left remains shackled to the gulag, the Wall and barbed wire, and will continue to be for as long as it fails to grasp that nightmares can only ever be dispelled by systematically confronting their particular contents over and again. Repression does not dissipate a nightmare, it preserves it. Nor is it enough simply to know what happened— these questions were answered by historians long ago. At issue is the why and the how, not just the who, what and when. Instead of looking to the years of power and megalomania for new yardsticks with which to evaluate every step, every decision of our own, and in this way to gradually arrive at a new conception of socialism, the left treats its forebears merely as embarrassing poorer cousins. In so doing, it fails to grasp that it wastes its only really existing opportunity—not to be absolved of the sins of the past, but to open up a route to a postcapitalist society. Cultivating historical amnesia makes us into prisoners of the past; instead of becoming the analyst, we get stuck in the position of the patient. The socialism of the twentieth century has been used by every political tendency but one: the left. That’s why the left is the only tendency with an interest in taking society, which remains stuck in the twentieth century, and finally leading it into the twenty-first century. Not least among the prerequisites for doing so is the rediscovery of virtues that torture chambers and stage-managed party conferences deprived of all meaning: honesty regarding one’s own past and present actions; untrammelled thinking, even at the point where it becomes uncomfortable; integrity, even and especially in relation to opponents. Machiavellian cunning can be useful in establishing a dictatorship, but when it comes to emancipating ourselves from exploitation and oppression, it inspires no one. None of this would have happened on Luxemburg’s watch. Deriving her theories from reality and checking them against it, the little Pole from Zamo´sc´ did not take long to free herself from the nightmare—we find an example of this in 1918, when she was one of the first to try to analyse the impending catastrophe in her studies of the Russian Revolution.

x

PREFACE—MEMORIES FOR THE FUTURE

The present book seeks to counter the tendency to view Rosa Luxemburg through the lens of caricature. It aims to awaken an interest in her work and her person, in one of the most unique people in the history of the European left. She was a woman who refused to be treated preferentially on account of her gender, knowing that this type of behaviour only served to legitimate gender inequality. She was a thinker who strove for equality through freedom and solidarity, without subordinating one to the other. A woman with many of the qualities which today’s left needs to re-learn. In our view, the contradictory whole that is Rosa Luxemburg’s work does not express its truth in this or that sentence. And its truth is a concrete truth, one that scrapes against real contradictions while being fraught with them. Luxemburg wanted to produce emancipatory agency in increasingly dark times. To this end, she struggled against helplessness and despair, indicating emergent possibilities where workers—the masses, as she referred to them—could act in their own interest, using their own insights and organically generated organisational forms to take matters into their own hands. Another part of the concrete truth of Rosa Luxemburg’s work is the fact that her irrepressible will to promote solidary emancipation reveals the fetters formed by traditional intellectual, behavioural, organisational and cultural forms, while also making it clear how difficult it is to create new such forms. Her own last great effort, the founding the KPD, is a testament to this difficulty. Rosa Luxemburg was neither a theorist in the mould of Marx, nor a party leader in that of Bebel or Lenin. Above all, her influence lay in her activity as a journalist and orator. As she elaborated at a party conference of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), ‘the only violent means that will lead us to victory is the socialist enlightenment of the working class in the everyday struggle’ (Luxemburg 1979, 239). Luxemburg did produce academic works, such as her dissertation and economic writings, and she was active in Polish Social Democracy as a party leader before becoming a founder of the KPD in 1918. However, the focus of her work was the written and spoken word addressed to the workers, whom she wanted to reach directly and to motivate to self-activity—to assist them in acting as the times demanded. This is also how she envisioned leadership. When she said that it is not the task of a socialist party to trigger action from the masses per command, she expressed self-understanding with the following word: ‘Our duty is simply, always without fear, “to

PREFACE—MEMORIES FOR THE FUTURE

xi

say loudly what is” [Luxemburg repeatedly cites this saying from Ferdinand Lassalle—M.B.], or in other words, to clearly and explicitly present the masses with their tasks in the given historical moment, to proclaim the programme of political action and the solutions resulting from the situation’ (Luxemburg 1974, 289). Luxemburg’s life was ended abruptly. She was the victim of a political murder at the hands of proto-fascist forces who had been let loose on the Spartacists by the right-wing leadership of the SPD. Not even 48 years old at the time, both her life and her life’s work were cut short. Her search for a democratic, emancipatory, socialist alternative to imperialism, colonialism and war remained unfinished. At the moment when Social Democracy and Bolshevist Communism were dividing into two hostile camps, the socialist alternative to both poles of the labour movement lost its most important and influential protagonist. The present study attempts to reconstruct the most significant political approaches pursued by Rosa Luxemburg. It begins with a glimpse into Luxemburg’s magnum opus—her own life, shaped by her speaking of truth to change the world. Subsequently, it looks back at the retrospective on the Marxism of the Second International and its failure in World War I that Luxemburg produced from prison in 1918 during the November Revolution, which is viewed alongside her own turn towards Marxism in Switzerland almost thirty years prior. In the process, the emergence of Luxemburg’s concept of revolutionary Realpolitik is situated in the context of the Marxism of the Second International and the politics of its parties, while it is revealed how the Russian Revolution of 1905 cast into doubt all received certainties of the day. The failed revolution would ultimately serve as a watershed, inspiring Luxemburg and others to transition to a new, more offensive strategy of mass action, which in Germany was successfully resisted by the leadership of the SPD. In the meantime, Luxemburg came to perceive of Marx’s politico-economic work as too narrow to grasp the new situative context for action in the age of imperialism. She thus began to lay a new foundation for revolutionary theory, a task which would go unfinished. In doing so, she saw her biggest challenge in the politics of the victorious Bolsheviks, which she believed destroyed the basic conditions of freedom in freedom’s name. With revolution afoot in the last two and a half months of her life, Rosa Luxemburg dedicated herself fully and entirely to renewing the emancipatory left. After detailing these efforts, the book concludes by outlining

xii

PREFACE—MEMORIES FOR THE FUTURE

several central elements in the history of the reception of Luxemburg’s life and work. Rosa Luxemburg remains a provocation above all. Her life’s work is marked by her maximum determination to work through the contradictions of emancipation. With great gusto, she scrutinised all received intellectual, political and economic forms, exploring to what extent they reveal themselves as solidary means for developing ‘the broadest humanity’. This was the source of her irrepressible revolutionary drive, and of her wish to always stay true to herself—to never lose or betray herself in the revolutionary ‘cause’. Goethe, whom she revered, once wrote: ‘Willst du ins Unendliche schreiten,/Geh nur im Endlichen nach allen Seiten’ [If you want to stride into the infinite, just pursue all sides in the finite]. Rosa Luxemburg did this until she was stopped by murderers in German uniform. Above all, we want this book to serve as a means for readers to approach Luxemburg themselves. Given the amount of Luxemburg’s writings and letters now available in English, the conditions for doing so have never been better. As signs of growing barbarism continue to amass, her commitment to a democratic socialism in which humans live in solidarity with each other and nature takes on new meaning. Berlin, Germany

Michael Brie Jörn Schütrumpf

Bibliography Luxemburg, Rosa. 1974. Brennende Zeitfragen (1917). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, 275–290. Berlin: Karl Dietz. ———. 1979. [Rede über das Verhältnis des trade-unionistischen zum politischen Kampf] Parteitag der Sozialdemokratischen Partei Deutschlands vom 3. bis 8. Oktober 1898 in Stuttgart. In Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 1.1, 238–241. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Marx, Karl. 2010. Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law. Introduction (1844). In MECW , vol. 3, 175–187. London: Lawrence & Wishart.

Titles Published

1. Terrell Carver & Daniel Blank, A Political History of the Editions of Marx and Engels’s “German Ideology” Manuscripts, 2014. 2. “Terrell Carver & Daniel Blank, Marx and Engels’s “German Ideology” Manuscripts: Presentation and Analysis of the “Feuerbach chapter,” 2014. 3. Alfonso Maurizio Iacono, The History and Theory of Fetishism, 2015. 4. Paresh Chattopadhyay, Marx’s Associated Mode of Production: A Critique of Marxism, 2016. 5. Domenico Losurdo, Class Struggle: A Political and Philosophical History, 2016. 6. Frederick Harry Pitts, Critiquing Capitalism Today: New Ways to Read Marx, 2017. 7. Ranabir Samaddar, Karl Marx and the Postcolonial Age, 2017. 8. George Comninel, Alienation and Emancipation in the Work of Karl Marx, 2018. 9. Jean-Numa Ducange & Razmig Keucheyan (Eds.), The End of the Democratic State: Nicos Poulantzas, a Marxism for the 21st Century, 2018. 10. Robert X. Ware, Marx on Emancipation and Socialist Goals: Retrieving Marx for the Future, 2018. 11. Xavier LaFrance & Charles Post (Eds.), Case Studies in the Origins of Capitalism, 2018.

xiii

xiv

TITLES PUBLISHED

12. John Gregson, Marxism, Ethics, and Politics: The Work of Alasdair MacIntyre, 2018. 13. Vladimir Puzone & Luis Felipe Miguel (Eds.), The Brazilian Left in the 21st Century: Conflict and Conciliation in Peripheral Capitalism, 2019. 14. James Muldoon & Gaard Kets (Eds.), The German Revolution and Political Theory, 2019. 15. Michael Brie, Rediscovering Lenin: Dialectics of Revolution and Metaphysics of Domination, 2019. 16. August H. Nimtz, Marxism versus Liberalism: Comparative RealTime Political Analysis, 2019. 17. Gustavo Moura de Cavalcanti Mello and Mauricio de Souza Sabadini (Eds.), Financial Speculation and Fictitious Profits: A Marxist Analysis, 2019. 18. Shaibal Gupta, Marcello Musto & Babak Amini (Eds.), Karl Marx’s Life, Ideas, and Influences: A Critical Examination on the Bicentenary, 2019. 19. Igor Shoikhedbrod, Revisiting Marx’s Critique of Liberalism: Rethinking Justice, Legality, and Rights, 2019. 20. Juan Pablo Rodríguez, Resisting Neoliberal Capitalism in Chile: The Possibility of Social Critique, 2019. 21. Kaan Kangal, Friedrich Engels and the Dialectics of Nature, 2020. 22. Victor Wallis, Socialist Practice: Histories and Theories, 2020. 23. Alfonso Maurizio Iacono, The Bourgeois and the Savage: A Marxian Critique of the Image of the Isolated Individual in Defoe, Turgot and Smith, 2020. 24. Terrell Carver, Engels Before Marx, 2020. 25. Jean-Numa Ducange, Jules Guesde: The Birth of Socialism and Marxism in France, 2020. 26. Antonio Oliva, Ivan Novara & Angel Oliva (Eds.), Marx and Contemporary Critical Theory: The Philosophy of Real Abstraction. 27. Francesco Biagi, Henri Lefebvre’s Critical Theory of Space. 28. Stefano Petrucciani, The Ideas of Karl Marx: A Critical Introduction. 29. Terrell Carver, The Life and Thought of Friedrich Engels, 30th Anniversary Edition. 30. Giuseppe Vacca, Alternative Modernities: Antonio Gramsci’s Twentieth Century.

TITLES PUBLISHED

xv

31. Kevin B. Anderson, Kieran Durkin & Heather Brown (Eds.), Raya Dunayevskaya’s Intersectional Marxism: Race, Gender, and the Dialectics of Liberation. 32. Marco Di Maggio, The Rise and Fall of Communist Parties in France and Italy.

Titles Forthcoming

Marcello Musto, Karl Marx’s Writings on Alienation Ryuji Sasaki, A New Introduction to Karl Marx: New Materialism, Critique of Political Economy, and the Concept of Metabolism Kohei Saito (Ed.), Reexamining Engels’s Legacy in the 21st Century Paresh Chattopadhyay, Socialism in Marx’s Capital: Towards a De-alienated World Michael Brie & Jörn Schütrumpf, Rosa Luxemburg: A Revolutionary Marxist at the Limits of Marxism Miguel Vedda, Siegfried Kracauer, or, The Allegories of Improvisation Gianfranco Ragona & Monica Quirico, Frontier Socialism: Self-organisation and Anti-capitalism Vesa Oittinen, Marx’s Russian Moment Kolja Lindner, Marx, Marxism and the Question of Eurocentrism Jean-Numa Ducange & Elisa Marcobelli (Eds.), Selected Writings of Jean Jaures: On Socialism, Pacifism and Marxism Adriana Petra, Intellectuals and Communist Culture: Itineraries, Problems and Debates in Post-war Argentina George C. Comninel, The Feudal Foundations of Modern Europe James Steinhoff, Critiquing the New Autonomy of Immaterial Labour: A Marxist Study of Work in the Artificial Intelligence Industry Spencer A. Leonard, Marx, the India Question, and the Crisis of Cosmopolitanism Joe Collins, Applying Marx’s Capital to the 21st Century Levy del Aguila Marchena, Communism, Political Power and Personal Freedom in Marx Jeong Seongjin, Korean Capitalism in the 21st Century: Marxist Analysis and Alternatives xvii

xviii

TITLES FORTHCOMING

Marcello Mustè, Marxism and Philosophy of Praxis: An Italian Perspective from Labriola to Gramsci Satoshi Matsui, Normative Theories of Liberalism and Socialism: Marxist Analysis of Values Shannon Brincat, Dialectical Dialogues in Contemporary World Politics: A Meeting of Traditions in Global Comparative Philosophy Stefano Petrucciani, Theodor W. Adorno’ Philosophy, Society, and Aesthetics Francesca Antonini, Reassessing Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire: Dictatorship, State, and Revolution Thomas Kemple, Capital After Classical Sociology: The Faustian Lives of Social Theory Tsuyoshi Yuki, Socialism, Markets and the Critique of Money: The Theory of “Labour Note” V Geetha, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar and the Question of Socialism in India Xavier Vigna, A Political History of Factories in France: The Workers’ Insubordination of 1968 Atila Melegh, Anti-Migrant Populism in Eastern Europe and Hungary: A Marxist Analysis Marie-Cecile Bouju, A Political History of the Publishing Houses of the French Communist Party Gustavo Moura de Cavalcanti Mello & Henrique Pereira Braga (Eds.), Wealth and Poverty in Contemporary Brazilian Capitalism Peter McMylor, Graeme Kirkpatrick & Simin Fadaee (Eds.), Marxism, Religion, and Emancipatory Politics Mauro Buccheri, Radical Humanism for the Left: The Quest for Meaning in Late Capitalism Rémy Herrera, Confronting Mainstream Economics to Overcome Capitalism Tamás Krausz, Eszter Bartha (Eds.), Socialist Experiences in Eastern Europe: A Hungarian Perspective Martin Cortés, Marxism, Time and Politics: On the Autonomy of the Political João Antonio de Paula, Huga da Gama Cerqueira, Eduardo da Motta e Albuquer & Leonardo de Deus, Marxian Economics for the 21st Century: Revaluating Marx’s Critique of Political Economy Zhi Li, The Concept of the Individual in the Thought of Karl Marx Lelio Demichelis, Marx, Alienation and Techno-capitalism Dong-Min Rieu, A Mathematical Approach to Marxian Value Theory: Time, Money, and Labor Productivity Salvatore Prinzi, Representation, Expression, and Institution: The Philosophy of Merleau-Ponty and Castoriadis Agon Hamza, Slavoj Žižek and the Reconstruction of Marxism Kei Ehara, Japanese Discourse on the Marxian Theory of Finance Éric Aunoble, French Views on the Russian Revolution

TITLES FORTHCOMING

xix

Elisa Marcobelli, Internationalism Toward Diplomatic Crisis: The Second International and French, German and Italian Socialists Paolo Favilli, Historiography and Marxism: Innovations in Mid-Century Italy Terrell Carver, Smail Rapic (Eds.), Friedrich Engels for the 21st Century: Perspectives and Problems Juan Dal Maso, Hegemony and Class: Three Essays on Trotsky, Gramsci and Marxism Patrizia Dogliani, A Political History of the International Union of Socialist Youth Alexandros Chrysis, The Marx of Communism: Setting Limits in the Realm of Communism

Contents

1

Show Us the Miracle! Where Is Your Miracle? To Be Oneself in the World In Prison: With Herself and in the World Speaking Truth—Living Truth Freedom Is Always the Freedom of the Others Bibliography

1 1 13 16 19 21

2

The Blighted Authority of Engels and Kautsky Returning to Marx—but to Which One? The Maximal Programme and the Minimal Programme Settling Accounts with ‘Ersatz Marxism’ Failing to Understand One’s Own Situation Bibliography

25 25 26 28 31 35

3

The ‘Fully Fledged Marxist’ and the Polish Question The Founding of the Social Democracy Movement in Poland and Its Two Factions Luxemburg’s Dissertation ‘The Industrial Development of Poland’ A Return to the Polish Question—1908–1909 Bibliography

37

Revolutionary Realpolitik New Questions for Old Answers The Strategy of the SPD from 1891

61 62 65

4

38 48 53 56

xxi

xxii

CONTENTS

Bernstein’s Total Revision of Marxism The Hammer Blow of the Revolution The Unity of Marxism and Socialism Bibliography 5

6

7

8

The Millerand Case—Socialist Participation in Government as a Test Case of Theory and Strategy The Bone of Contention The Gap Between Marxist Theory and Socialist Practice Rosa Luxemburg’s Formulation of the Problem Capitalism and the Class State The Bourgeois State as Barrier Between Capitalism and Socialism Socialist Politics in the Bourgeois State The Struggle for the Democratisation of Democracy and the Question of Violence Conclusion Bibliography The Electric Age of Unexpected Developments: The 1905 Russian Revolution General Strike, Debate on Organisation and Political Leadership Lessons from the 1905 Russian Revolution Defeat as a Path to Victory Freedom for the Enemy Bibliography

67 70 77 79 81 81 84 87 89 91 94 99 102 103 105 105 111 118 120 122

On the Defensive The SPD at the Crossroads Against ‘Nothing-but-Parliamentarism’ and ‘Nothing-but-Action’ The Great War and the Search for a Strategic Response Bibliography

127 127

The Imperialist Age and the Accumulation of Capital ‘Help Me Figure Something Out—But Quickly!’ Society as a Cultural Organism Capitalism as an Impossible World Form Politico-Economical Foundations of a New Strategy Bibliography

145 145 150 152 160 161

130 137 142

CONTENTS

9

10

11

12

Rosa Luxemburg’s Symphony on the Russian Revolution The Prehistory Luxemburg’s Criticism of the Bolsheviks: Too Little Socialism, Too Little Democracy The Anticipated Harmony of Opposites: Necessity and Freedom Bibliography Beyond Social Democrats and Bolsheviks Revolutionary Leadership and Self-Empowerment Revolution in Russia—An Alternative Strategy How the Bolsheviks ‘Won’ the Revolution and Made Luxemburg’s Nightmares Come True Bibliography

xxiii

165 165 169 173 175 177 177 187 192 200

The November Revolution: A New Beginning Violently Interrupted Socialism as the Order of the Day Programmatic Renewal and the Founding of the KPD The Alternatives of the Age: Socialism or Barbarism Socialism as Free Self-Determination The Next Tasks in the Revolution The Self-Understanding of the Spartacus League The January Uprising in Berlin and Government Terror Bibliography

203 203 213 214 215 217 218 220 223

Spat at, Adored, but Also Indispensable? Bibliography

227 240

Index

245

CHAPTER 1

Show Us the Miracle! Where Is Your Miracle?

So you ask me what I’m missing. As a matter of fact, life! (Luxemburg 1982a, 159)

To Be Oneself in the World Rosa Luxemburg was an enthusiastic botanist. She didn’t simply study biology in Zurich before turning to the social sciences and humanities— no, her entire life was moulded by the force of attraction that free nature exerted upon her. Her work is shot through with metaphors of wild landscapes and of life’s force (cf. Luxemburg 2016 for her wonderful herbarium). Luxemburg’s visions of socialism are taken from nature— from the world of animals and plants, of mountains and unbridled rivers. And one hundred years after her death, even she herself, her thinking and activity, eludes cold classification and ossifying categorisation. She fits neither neatly into the geometrically ordered gardens of Marxist-Leninist intellectual history, nor into the quaint landscape gardens of a flattenedout liberalism. Rosa Luxemburg’s legacy is like wild nature. It is unsettling because it vividly opposes all fixed rules. The legacy of Luxemburg proliferates always from the new, shattering as well the hardest sarcophagi with

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 M. Brie and J. Schütrumpf, Rosa Luxemburg, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67486-1_1

1

2

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

every new departure humans make from the confines of bondage.1 Yet wherein exactly does the explosiveness of her work lie? Many politicians can be reduced to one concept; Luxemburg, on the other hand, is a realm of lived contradictions. Although she carefully guarded her personal life and maintained its free spaces down to the smallest detail, this life and her political activism were but two sides of one and the same life well-lived. Luxemburg’s relationship to the world and to herself cannot be separated. Time and again, she was prepared to sacrifice her life—first as a grammar school student, then in the 1905–1906 Russian Revolution, in Russian and German prisons and in the November Revolution. And she enjoyed life—the older she grew, all the more consciously and intensely. Whoever wants to understand Luxemburg must read her letters in addition to her published writings. Rather than mere supplements to her articles and books, they are on par with them. For Karl Kraus, her letters from prison were a ‘document of humanity and poetry unique in the Germanophone world’ (cited in Hetmann 1998, 6). Within them, the meaning of her successful life as a socialist becomes clear. The relationship between Luxemburg’s political and theoretical texts on the one hand and her letters on the other reflects the tensions of her life, and whoever has failed to understand these has understood nothing of Luxemburg. Her life cannot be measured alone by her works: she did not found a state like Lenin or write a tome for the millennia like Marx’s Capital. Her political impact remained limited, and while her economic writings are important, they are equalled by the writings of several of her Marxist contemporaries. Yet to measure Luxemburg by the immediate effect of her work is to miss her genuine lasting importance. After all, there is something else that makes Luxemburg stand out to the great extent she does: her life itself. Luxemburg’s magnum opus, not just the philosophical, was ‘the exemplary life she led’ (Caysa 2017, 38). Her genius expressed itself in this life, a life both highly personal and political, one filled with both practical interventions of existential consequence and theoretical reflection; the life of a gifted journalist and speaker engaged with the masses, and that of

1 What Peter Weiss wrote is absolutely true: ‘The hardened, motionless and immovable custodians of an ideology stand always on the side of the reactionary, regardless of what bloc they consider themselves a part of; their seemingly consistent, militant stance serves nothing other than the preservation of an obsolete, dead idea material’ (cited in Gioia 1989, 9).

1

SHOW US THE MIRACLE! WHERE IS YOUR MIRACLE?

3

a person who would withdraw entirely into herself, into painting, music and in the world of plants and animals. Often she completely immersed herself ‘from morning to evening’ in writing, in painting and in botany. At those times, it was as if she were intoxicated (Luxemburg 1987a, 74). Shortly thereafter, she would dash from one mass rally to the next. These pursuits did not exist parallel to each other but rather formed the poles of intensely lived, mutually affecting contrasts. As Walter Jens wrote, Luxemburg attempted to live an existence ‘in which, from private person and zoon politikon, a harmonious nature moulded by self-identity and an open relation to the world would result’ (Jens 1995, 13). In a manner that remains exemplary, Luxemburg lived socialism as solidary-emancipatory movement in which the transformation of the world and the self is unified. In November 1918, right after having been released from prison, Luxemburg wrote an article calling for the immediate abolition of the death penalty: In the four years of imperialist genocide, blood flowed in rivers and streams. Now every drop of the precious juice must be guarded with awe in crystal bowls. The most ruthless revolutionary energy and the broadest humanity – this alone is the true breath [Odem] of socialism. A world must be overthrown, but every tear that has been shed, even though it could be wiped off, is an indictment, and a person, who in hastening to do something important crushes a poor worm out of raw inattention, commits a crime. (Luxemburg 1918)

This dual demand of socialism to be both ruthless and humane was above all a lived self-demand. While writing about socialism, Luxemburg simultaneously wrote about herself. The lasting radiance exuded by Rosa Luxemburg is above all the life which she enabled herself to lead—with great determination and even greater persistency. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is reported to have said that it is human character that, as a ‘daemon’, determines whether humans live successful or failed lives. In what follows, we want to sketch the contours of how Luxemburg lived her life in order to trace her ‘daemon’. This will be done with keywords, as here of all places any attempt to strive for closure is bound to fail. Reading Luxemburg’s political and theoretical writings requires penetrating the largely outdated language of the Marxism of the Second International. Many keywords no longer have a living correspondent

4

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

and need to be reconstructed. The naturalness with which she spoke of the working class or proletariat, of reform and revolution, of party and socialism, is from another time. But getting past this language allows one to unlock the lived reality behind it and discover the enduring reason for her radiance over an entire century: her empathetically sensitive relationship to the world. She searched for intimacy in everything and addressed the world intimately. The power of this form of relating to the world resulted from the strength of her own personality, from her ‘soul’. In an 1899 letter to Leo Jogiches, her intimate partner, she remarked: It’s the form of my writing that no longer satisfies me. In my ‘soul’ a totally new, original form is ripening that ignores all rules and conventions. It breaks them by the power of ideas and strong conviction. I want to affect people like a clap of thunder, to inflame their minds not by speechifying but with the breadth of my vision, the strength of my conviction and the power of my expression. (Luxemburg 1982b, 307)

Rosa Luxemburg was neither primarily a strategist like Lenin nor a theorist like Kautsky, neither a sceptic like Bernstein nor an organic intellectual like Gramsci. She was, rather, in an entirely Old Testament sense and yet also a very modern one, a prophet—a ‘guide on the path out of the house of slaves’ (Veerkamp 2013, 53).2 She invoked the inseparable unity of freedom and equality, of self-determination and solidarity, of sympathy and intervening action. While reading Gerhart Hauptmann’s Emanuel Quint, she encountered herself, as she wrote: Do you know the paintings of Christ by Hans Thoma? You’ll have a similar experience of the image of Christ in this book [by Hauptmann]: the way he [Christ] walks, slender and tall, veiled in a dark-reddish glow, through fields of ripe grain, and to the left and right of his dark figure soft waves of purple flow over the silver tassels of grain. There [in that book] one issue caught my attention, among countless others, an issue that I’ve never seen portrayed elsewhere and one that I have felt deeply in my own life: the tragedy of a person who preaches to the crowd and who is aware that every word, the moment it leaves the mouth, is coarsened and becomes congealed in the minds of its listeners in distorted form as a caricature;

2 In a ‘search for traces‘of Luxemburg’s family, Krzysztof Pilawski and Holger Politt have discovered it had deep roots in the reform wing of the rabbinacy of Eastern and Middle European Jewry (Pilawski and Politt 2020).

1

SHOW US THE MIRACLE! WHERE IS YOUR MIRACLE?

5

and on the basis of this caricature, the preacher is now nailed fast and in the end is surrounded by disciples, who rage around, shouting crudely: ‘Show us the miracle! That’s what you taught us. Where is your miracle?’ (Luxemburg 2011a, 379–380)

Luxemburg entered into lively relationships with all that with which she could establish intimacy, with that which corresponded to herself and only with that. This is why her subjectivity and her action, her self and her work, her personality and her activities are inseparable from each other. She did not disappear behind that with which she engaged, she neither subordinated herself to it nor merged with it; rather, she lived the contradictions. She wanted to find in reality that which matched herself: the will, with head held high, to shape the world in a more humane way; the radicalness to desire complete emancipation; the love that seizes the other entirely and comes from one’s innermost being; the beauty that lies in every leaf, in every birdsong, in every harmony; the idea that casts the world in a new light.3 Whatever answered her invocation was seen by her was to her an intimate partner in conversation. Everything that did not answer her intimately was occlusive to her and was shadows of a world condemned to extinction. If something did not appear to her lively and completely true, it repelled her. Throughout her letters are comments such as the following: ‘I dread interacting with humans. I want to live with just animals’ (Luxemburg 1982c, 85). She did not want to lose her sense of self in her contact with the outside world (Luxemburg 1982d, 290). And at the same time, she could display the utmost vulnerability, such as she does in a letter to her friend Hans Diefenbach (who died on the front in October 1917) from 30 March 1917: In the midst of my lovely, laboriously achieved state of equilibrium, last night before going to sleep I was again seized by a despair blacker than the night. And today is also another gray day, without sun – a cold east wind … I feel like a frozen bumblebee; have you ever found a bumblebee

3 In 1919, Eduard Bernstein praised Luxemburg as a great socialist and identified a

reason for her failure in her perception of the German working class: ‘The proletariat that stood before her mind’s eye stood and lived in her soul was derived from an abstraction that did not correspond to reality’ (Bernstein 1998, 236). However, this ‘proletariat ‘was ‘derived’ above all from the real elements of democratic self-empowerment through popular movements in which Luxemburg had taken part herself.

6

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

like that in the garden after the first frosty autumn morning, lying on its back quite cold and still as though dead, lying in the grass with its little legs drawn in and its little fur coat covered with hoarfrost? Only when the sun warms it thoroughly do the little legs slowly start to move and extend themselves, then the little body starts to turn over [getting off its back], and finally the bumblebee clumsily rises into the air with a grumbling, droning sound. I always made it my business to kneel down next to such a frozen bumblebee and waken it back to life by blowing on it with my warm breath. If only the sun would wake poor me from this deathly coldness! (Luxemburg 2011b, 384)

Luxemburg’s highest principle was ‘always to be myself, without any regard to the surroundings or other people’. To this, she added: ‘I am an idealist and will remain one, as much in the German movement as in the Polish’ (Luxemburg 2011c, 118). Within others and the world, she sought that which corresponded to her innermost being. When she spoke emphatically about socialism, about the fundamental ingenuity of humans who have set themselves in motion, about what the party needed to do, about pre-capitalist or post-capitalist societies, she captured these things always in a way that filled her with enthusiasm and resonated with her personality. And when she wrote of death in poorhouses, of the victims of colonialism and war, of a buffalo being beaten, she expressed her own suffering as well. She reflected the world and was herself reflected in the world. There were no protective or separating walls between her and the world. Out of this immediacy grew her enormous strengths— and weaknesses. It is necessary to be aware of the horizons and limits of her thought that resulted from this. Her unconditionality ran up against the real world of the conditional. The ‘uniformity of her essence’ was the unity of contradictions, and above all ‘the unity between her boundless compassion, her deep-seated humanity and her razor-sharp mind, which penetrated everything and critically picked everything to pieces’ (Roland-Holst 1937, 41). In Zurich, Rosa Luxemburg had become a Marxist, initially not without orthodox traits. However, she was never in danger of ending up in the proverbial ivory tower. Her restless mind and her temperament, fed by a strong lust for life, saved her from this fate. Early on, she had found the appropriate vehicle for this energy in her written work: polemics. 100 years on, it can be said with certainty that Rosa Luxemburg is one of the most brilliant polemicists of world literature. Not only was she unsurpassed in her lifetime, but by virtue of their polemical features,

1

SHOW US THE MIRACLE! WHERE IS YOUR MIRACLE?

7

many of her writings on contemporary events still remain particularly relevant today. Rosa Luxemburg, with seeming ease yet great discipline, did for twentieth-century political polemic what Kurt Tucholsky did for twentieth-century political satire. It was in Zurich where Rosa Luxemburg met Leo Jogiches. The political relationship between them was symbiotic. Through her studies both at the University of Zurich and equally within the context of various emigrant circles in Switzerland, Luxemburg emerged as an exceptionally knowledgeable Marxist. Soon she came to be regarded as a leading theoretician of the party Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL). And indeed, she did possess the theoretical abilities of a leading scholar, which she demonstrated by 1913 at the latest by publishing an original theory of accumulation. Nonetheless, theory in and of itself held little interest for her. By the end of her university studies, she was already writing and publishing prolifically, but most of her work was political journalism that focussed on action, not theory. She wanted to have an influence, change things and stir people up. But for many years it was Jogiches, not her, who formulated the political agenda. As Clara Zetkin, a long-time friend of both, wrote in retrospect: ‘He [Leo] was her ever-watchful theoretical and practical conscience’ (quoted in Roland-Holst 1937, 21). Leo Jogiches was four years older than Rosa Luxemburg and the son of a very wealthy Jewish family from Vilnius. He had spent years doing conspiratory work in Lithuania and had already spent some months in prison. Jogiches met Luxemburg when she was a student of zoology, but quickly introduced her to economics and politics. He was not only Luxemburg’s mentor on issues of socialism, but also her first and most important partner in life. After their private relationship ended around 1906, they remained close, and not only politically—although Luxemburg at one point bought a gun to defend herself against Jogiches who had threatened to kill her. Jogiches was highly educated, but was not a writer or academic. He was a revolutionary, a man of action. He not only commanded natural authority but was also an authoritarian, which especially in his youth yielded him both lifelong enemies and approval. By the age of 19, Jogiches was already well versed in the repertoire of the lonesome conspirator, from illegal agitation, the forging of documents and the smuggling of activists across borders, to strikes which he organised on his own. In 1887, he, a 20-year-old, was even asked by the assassins of Russian Tsar Alexander III to smuggle two persecuted people

8

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

abroad, something which Jogiches routinely did. Thirty years later, during World War I, he was responsible for the organisation of the Spartacus League’s illegal struggle against genocide. In March 1919, two months after Luxemburg’s murder, he was also killed in his cell in Moabit, Berlin, while imprisoned on remand. Luxemburg was frequently Jogiches’s mouthpiece; given both his inhibitions in relation to writing and the fact that Russian was his mother tongue, he would have remained inaudible without her—particularly in the Polish- and German-speaking worlds. Jogiches learnt both of these languages later, not least through the efforts of Luxemburg. Little wonder, then, that many of Luxemburg’s enemies found her insufferable and denounced her accordingly, especially those who could not withstand her poignant writing or her sharp tongue at SPD party congresses. Some did not stop at labelling her a quarrelsome hag in private, but also tried to degrade her publicly. Her short stature of 1.50 m, her overly large head, her long nose and damaged hip (which she usually managed to hide) meant that the more vulgar among the social democrats tried to compensate for their own inferiority by cheap mockery. Luxemburg, who undoubtedly suffered from this ridicule, protected herself as much as possible by resorting to self-deprecating irony. For instance, she explained her preference for tall, strong maids—these being the days when keeping a household was a full-time job—by joking that visitors might otherwise be led to think that they had arrived in a dwarves’ house. Likewise, when it came to men, she looked not only for exceptional intellectual attributes, but also for physical height. Nonetheless, she was typically the object of desire more than she expressed it herself. There is a fascinating photograph from a meeting of the Bureau of the Second International in 1907, which shows a beaming Rosa Luxemburg in the centre, surrounded by several dozen elderly men. Younger men were no less fascinated by her. Apart from Leo Jogiches, all her partners were younger than her: Kostja Zetkin (1885–1980), the son of Clara Zetkin, by 14 years, Paul Levi by 12 years, and Hans Diefenbach (1884–1917) by 13 years. Diefenbach came to Luxemburg’s aid when she was placed her under ‘protective custody’, thereby earning himself—like so many politically recusant individuals, not least those of the Spartacus group—a trip to the Western Front, where a French grenade tore him to pieces during a military operation (cf. Zetkin [1917] 2016a, 355). In public, Rosa Luxemburg was mostly very cautious about her private life; bar her marriage of convenience, she was wed and had no children. This was

1

SHOW US THE MIRACLE! WHERE IS YOUR MIRACLE?

9

because in the prudish climate of Wilhelm’s Germany, a woman travelling alone was seen as objectionable, particularly if she had Luxemburg’s demeanour. The existing double moral standards also led her not to voice all her beliefs publicly; in a private letter, she writes: ‘Regarding Frau von Stein, with all due respect to her ivy leaves: God may punish me, but she was a cow. When Goethe left her she behaved like a nagging washerwoman, and I insist that the character of a woman shows not where love begins but rather where it ends’ (Luxemburg 1987b, 54). The fact that Luxemburg’s relationship with Paul Levi only became publicly known in 1983—many decades after both their deaths, when his family published most of the letters exchanged between the two— highlights the extent to which she was forced to be ‘discreet’. Levi had been her lawyer in the Frankfurt lawsuit for inciting disobedience just before World War I; in 1919, he succeeded her as leader of the KPD. They had had a short-lived but intense relationship in 1914, but friendship and mutual trust were to last until Luxemburg’s death. Levi also saved her legacy and published ‘The Russian Revolution’ in 1922, amidst much hostility. One of her biographers argues that her attitude to life is best characterised as ‘refined’, noting: ‘She was as tight in her personal relationships as with the arrangement of her possessions. Everyone had an allotted place which could not be exceeded except by invitation-and then only to advance a step at a time. Yet there was nothing dry or formal about her relationships. She inspired enormous loyalty and devotion in her immediate circle which, had she permitted it, would have itself become a form of love’ (Nettl 1966a, 27). Luxemburg did not belong to the SPD’s inner circle, a circle of elderly and even old men. SPD co-chairman August Bebel, who was an honest man yet also a tactician intent on preventing the failure of his life’s work, liked the young woman and used her for his own purposes. As for Luxemburg, she was positively enthralled by the old man. At one of the party conferences, she let slip the phrase ‘I love you, August’ in public. As Bebel himself wrote in a letter about Luxemburg, using language notable for its reflection of traditional gender roles, ‘she is a very clever wench [Frauenzimmer] and will stand up for herself [ihren Mann stehen]’ (quoted in Krauß 1999, 27). When Luxemburg, disguised as German journalist Anna Matschke, fell into the trap of the Tsarist police in Warsaw in 1906, Bebel pulled out all

10

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

the stops to protect her life and bail her out of custody. She did, however, refuse his offer to use party resources to help her financially following her release. Likewise, while in custody, she had rejected the suggestion of asking the German chancellor for diplomatic intervention to bring about her release. In her mind, she remained first and foremost a citoyenne, a citizen as understood in the context of the French Revolution. Selfconfident and mindful of her freedom, she was a rarity in Germany. She rejected largesse that would force her into dependence, and was prepared to pay a high price for said freedom—perhaps too high a price, as one of her friends posited. Luxemburg hated being holed up, only feeling truly free in an open struggle. She detested half-heartedness, but it was precisely that which had become the norm among the former heroes of the Sozialistengesetze period. One Sunday in early 1907, Luxemburg was invited for dinner at Kautsky’s family home together with her old friend Clara Zetkin, herself an early and resolute feminist. The two women had been enjoying a walk and arrived late. SPD chairperson Bebel, who was also present, jokingly remarked that the guests had already expected the worst. Luxemburg laughingly retorted that, should they ever become victims of a crime, the inscription on the grave should read: ‘Here lie the last real two men of German Social Democracy’. During her studies in Zurich, Luxemburg helped to found the Internationaler Studentinnenverein [International Association of Female Students], which existed from 1895 to 1911. In contrast to the older Allgemeiner Studentinnenverein Zürich [Zurich General Association of Female Students], which existed from 1887 to 1899 and demanded voting rights for women in student government elections, the Internationaler Studentinnenverein also called for the right of women to stand these elections. The most prominent of Internationaler Studentinnenverein’s co-founders was the photographer Anita Augsburg, Luxemburg’s senior by 14 years. Although Augsburg first began studying at age 36, she managed to complete her doctorate before Luxemburg in 1897. Following her return to Munich, Augsburg not only became active in the movement for women’s suffrage and the peace movement, but also became a pioneer of the international lesbian movement. In addition to the movement for women’s suffrage represented by Anita Augsburg and Minna Cauer, the female students’ and women’s movement had an anticapitalist-socialist wing influenced by Clara Zetkin, which demanded not only electoral rights, but also economic equality for

1

SHOW US THE MIRACLE! WHERE IS YOUR MIRACLE?

11

women. In her own time as a student, Luxemburg belonged to this wing of the movement, which from the start of World War I often existed in tension to the mainstream of the movement. Following her move to Berlin and her entry into the SPD, Luxemburg largely ceased to engage with the question of women’s equality, but not because her position had changed. While women as a matter of law were denied not only the right to vote, but almost all other civil rights as well, many experienced the SPD as a positive, protective space from which debate on women’s equality could be conducted. Luxemburg as well initially wanted to push the leaders of the SPD on this question. However, she soon recognised the disadvantages of doing so, fearing it would entrench the division of labour between men and women that eternalised the patriarchal structures dominating all political organisations of the day, including the SPD. Clara Zetkin, the figurehead of the socialist women’s movement in Europe and also 14 years Luxemburg’s senior, repeatedly appealed to Luxemburg over the years to contribute to the women’s magazine Die Gleichheit [Equality], yet she only rarely yielded to Zetkin’s urging. Luxemburg saw herself not as a ‘woman politician’ but simply as a politician, as on par with her male colleagues. Not wanting to jeopardise this, she held back on the question of women’s equality while nonetheless leading a remarkably emancipated life. Incidentally, Luxemburg’s evasions changed nothing in her friendship with Zetkin. Even when Luxemburg became involved with Zetkin’s son Kostja (the relationship lasted from 1906 or 1907 to 1912), the strain between the two women was only temporary. Politically speaking, the balance between the older and younger woman shifted soon after they met. Zetkin was the spirited one, a successful magazine publisher and a moving agitator. Luxemburg was herself by no means incapable of bringing audiences to their feet, yet she was essentially the more analytical of the two. That being said, Zetkin—who herself was not free of vanity—never made an issue of this. As she wrote Luxemburg in the midst of the November Revolution in 1918: ‘Oh Rosa, there’s a world of questions I need to speak with you about. You know how mistrustful I am of my own judgment. And here I [only] have dear people whose opinions and views can intrigue me, but no one whose judgment on the situation could function as a point for me to orient myself and achieve understanding’ (Zetkin 2016b, 495).

12

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Luxemburg was at once both sighted and blind. She had boundless optimism regarding the capacity of workers to achieve the insight necessary to overcome their capitalist unfreedom. Every single struggle seemed to her to point beyond the here and now. Accommodation to the status quo and self-satisfaction were two things that were unbearable to her. Presciently, she was able to conceive of the Russian Revolution of 1905 as an expression of human self-organisation and self-empowerment at its most vibrant while almost completely overlooking the indispensable role of firmly established organisations, seeing them as tools of domination. She insisted on a class solidarity that transcended all borders between nations, races and genders, thus refusing to lay claim to particular ‘Jewish pains’ and rejecting the independence of struggles against patriarchy and national oppression. For her, everything was part of a common socialist struggle that should not be divided. This is why one finds in her work no strategically compelling answer to the question of how to acknowledge divisions while realising a politics of solidarity that points beyond these to that which is held in common. She saw herself as an idealist, as much as she appealed to economic interests. Just a few examples of Luxemburg’s selective symbiosis with the world as she saw it should suffice. She identified the ‘most valuable legacy’ of Marx as the dialectical connection between two poles: ‘theoretical immersion in order to guide our daily struggle with the steady helm of principle, and resolute revolutionary drive so that the major period we are approaching might not be restricted to a minor lineage’ (Luxemburg 1972a, 184). This was a self-portrait. She expressed her admiration for the political mass strike in words that matched what she hoped to achieve in her own work: ‘from the whirlwind and the storm, out of the fire and glow of the mass strike and the street fighting rise again, like Venus from the foam, fresh, young, powerful, buoyant trade unions’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 186). In 1915, she wrote the following regarding work in socialist organisations: Though we, the soul that thirsts for free humanity, might not be worthy to ever tasted at the springs of socialism and drink new life from it, what the hour demands from us could be more than enough [to tide us over]. What we do for the organisation and through it has to be like a bowl filled to the brim with socialist spirit. Then and only then will it [the organisation] receive its true purpose and higher consecration (Luxemburg 2017a, 936).

1

SHOW US THE MIRACLE! WHERE IS YOUR MIRACLE?

13

She saw herself as someone who lent the socialist spirit expression. Without this spirit, the organisational bowl that contained it would be to her but a dead shell and a personal hell. Her willingness to face defeat or even death rather than fail to live in accordance with her ideals arose from the direct unity between the deepest recesses of her personality and the global movement for which she advocated. She saw herself as ‘a country of unlimited possibilities’ (Luxemburg 1987c, 157) and sought in reality the kinds of movements, of people, of ideas and of forms that sought to explode borders. Luxemburg’s letters bear witness to her constant work on herself and on her relationships with friends and with lovers, punctuated as they are by unceasing self-reflection as well as by admonitions of others to be truthful and steadfast. In many of them, a trademark expression recurs: ‘Sei heiter!’—Be cheerful! Resisting the demands of fate meant for her never letting herself be deprived of the ability to live a life of selfawareness, affirmation and enjoyment of the moment. She sought the most intimate relationships—be they with bumblebees, pigeons, flowers, lovers, friends, landscapes or with the pale light of the moon—and also kept her distance in order to be alone with herself. Whoever came under her sway experienced both her generosity and defensiveness in abundance. Both find expression in a letter to Hans Diefenbach from January 1917 in which she wrote: ‘I say to you, Hänschen, if a best friend ever said to me: I can either engage in cruelty or die of anguish, I would say to him with icy calmness: Then die’ (Luxemburg 1987c, 158).

In Prison: With Herself and in the World The character of a person reveals itself most of all when one is deprived of the sanctuary of privacy. Prisons are places where this happens. Whoever wants to learn something about Nelson Mandela’s personality must visit Robben Island, the prison island 12 kilometres out into the Atlantic, where he was imprisoned in a four square metre cell for twenty years. Already by World War I, Rosa Luxemburg had been jailed several times (1904, 1906, 1907). During the war, she spent a year in the women’s prison on Barnimstrasse in Berlin, and then after a short interruption in the spring of 1916 as a ‘protective custody prisoner’ in Wronke and Breslau before her release in 1918. In the ‘involuntary leisure’ (Luxemburg 1987d, 130) of her imprisonment in Berlin, she wrote among other

14

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

texts the ‘Junius Pamphlet’ and a response to the critique of her Accumulation of Capital , an ‘anti-critique’. Towards the end of her sentence, she translated the first part of the memoir of the Russian-Ukrainian SocialRevolutionary writer Vladimir G. Korolenko and wrote an introduction to it, managed to smuggle out many articles and of course engaged with the Russian Revolution as well. Upon being committed to the women’s prison in Berlin, she registered her initial shock thusly: [T]he Russian gendarmes had escorted me with great respect as a ‘political’, whereas the Berlin police declared they didn’t give a damn (‘schnuppe’) who I was, and stuck me into the car with my new ‘colleagues’. Ah well, these are all piddling matters in the end; and never forget that live should be taken with serenity and cheerfulness. Incidentally, so that you don’t get any exaggerated ideas about my heroism, I’ll confess, repentently, that when I had to strip to my chemise and submit to a frisking for the second time that day, I could barely hold back the tears. Of course, deep inside, I was furious with myself at such weakness, and I still am. Also on that first evening, what really dismayed me was not the prison cell and my sudden exclusion from the land of the living, but—take a guess!—the fact that I had to go to bed without a night-dress and without having combed my hair. And, so as not to omit a quotation from the classics: do you remember the first scene in ‘Mary Stuart’, when Mary’s trinkets are taken away from her? ‘To do without life’s little ornaments’, says her nurse, Lady Kennedy, ‘is harder than to brave great trials’. (Luxemburg 1987e, 47; cited in Frölich 2010, 214f.)

Just as noteworthy as her theoretical and political prison writings—and the fact that she was able to compose them given her situation—were her ability and willpower to live in prison with the intensity that she did. As she wrote, she obeyed an imperative: ‘above all one must at all times live as a complete human being’ (Luxemburg 2011d, 375). She did this in several ways. First, as far as her circumstances, the wardens and their higher-ups allowed, she made an effort to transform the prison into a living space, bestowing upon it trappings of home even under the most wretched conditions. She tried to keep up with old habits. Her flats had always been tremendously important to her. They needed to match her— ordered and as close to nature as possible. Even her prison cells were ‘cosily’ fashioned, as far as this was possible at all. In Wronke, she planted a small garden and continued to pursue botany. As much as she could, she always maintained a disciplined daily routine. Second, she carried on

1

SHOW US THE MIRACLE! WHERE IS YOUR MIRACLE?

15

her dialogue with friends and forged new relationships. What she lacked in direct contact, she made up for with postal correspondences of utmost intensity. Third, she stayed politically active, intervening and continuing to try to reach and enlighten people with her words. And fourth, she used the time for theoretical and cultural reflection. Thanks to her charismatic personality, she managed at least in Wronke to receive substantial perks (cf. the memoirs of the prison director, Dr. Ernst Dossmann, in Luxemburg 2017b, 971f.; see also 2017c, 995). In her letters from prison, Luxemburg created for herself and for others a different world. Her friend Henriette Roland-Holst has claimed that some even rank ‘among the most beautiful prose-poems of world literature’ (Roland-Holst 1937, 153). Time and again, she exhorted herself to refrain from rage and despair with the following words: ‘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”’ (Luxemburg 2011a, 378). These letters were not Seelenergüsse, not ‘soul effusions’, but rather self-portraits, written by Luxemburg not least so that she could raise herself up upon them and offer others support with them. They are art products of reflected immediacy. Luxemburg worked intensively on her relationships with those ‘on the outside’, reshaped both the world encircling her and the world in the far-off distance, not only so that she might be able to stand them, but also so that she could live in them.4 Writing to Hans Diefenbach shortly before his death, she painted the idyll of a joint journey to Switzerland in summer before concluding with the words: ‘Oh God, how beautiful is the world and is life!’ (Luxemburg 1987f, 189).

4 As Luxemburg’s friend Luise Kautsky would later write about her: ‘How she, the

great bon vivant, understood to shape her existence humanely even while in strict custody, indeed, how she managed to make it more fulfilling almost makes one want to say: to create an even greater amount of happiness from this dungeon existence as the rest of us were able to create in our own free lives during those terrible times—for this, her letters are an eloquent testimony’ (Kautsky 1929, 43f.).

16

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Speaking Truth---Living Truth As Luxemburg repeated time and again in her speeches and articles, ‘[a]s Lassalle said, the most revolutionary act is and forever remains “to say loudly what is”’ (Luxemburg 1972b, 36; cf. also the footnote in Luxemburg 2017d for the Lassalle quotation). Peter Nettl put it this way: ‘She was interested in influence, not power’ (Nettl 1966b, 122). Volker Caysa takes this idea to be central to Luxemburg’s way of life while relating it to the Greek concept of parr¯esia, speaking freely. Emerging first with the polis democracy of ancient Greece, this concept was extensively discussed by Michel Foucault in his lectures at the Collège de France from 1982 to 1984. As Caysa writes: ‘At the center of her political way and philosophy of life exists a politics of parr¯esia, of the open, free, perilous speaking of truth, of the defenceless speaking forth of truth without protection from authority backed up by power and with all the existential perils entailed. She proclaimed the truth without letting herself be paralysed by fear for her own existence—unreserved, (almost) entirely at her own expense, and further, when circumstances necessitated it, without the support of the party, the community to which she belonged’ (Caysa 2017, 14). For Luxemburg, speaking truth involved several dimensions. First, from it stemmed the demand to create and obtain political spaces in which the freedom of those who thought differently would be protected above all. Here, even the enemy would remain inviolate when speaking. Only in this space of free speech could self-empowerment and self-determination unfold. Thus, for Luxemburg, democracy was not a transitional phase, and the dictatorship of the proletariat should be moulded by ‘unrestricted freedom of press and assembly’ (Luxemburg 2004b, 307). How else, she asked, would ‘the rule of the broad mass of the people’ be possible (Luxemburg 2004b, 304)? Second, Luxemburg’s version of speaking truth is not to be confused with non-committal chatter. In his lectures on parr¯esia, Foucault highlighted the existential self-commitment of the speaker of truth: ‘The parrhesiast, the person who uses parr¯esia, is the truthful man (l’homme véridique), that is to say, the person who has the courage to risk telling the truth, and who risks this truth-telling in a pact with himself, inasmuch as he is, precisely, the enunciator of the truth’ (Foucault 2010, 66). Truth lies first and foremost in the speaker himself or herself. Primarily, it consists of personal statements that are authenticated by one’s own activity.

1

SHOW US THE MIRACLE! WHERE IS YOUR MIRACLE?

17

Luxemburg’s legacy lies above all in confronting the contradictions of life as a socialist with the utmost rigour, far beyond even the point at which rigour becomes the grossest negligence and can mean death. While the imperial prosecutor at her 1913 trial recommended she be taken into custody immediately, Luxemburg shouted at the end of her defendant’s speech: ‘A Social Democrat does not flee. He stands by his actions and laughs at your punishments. And now sentence me!’ (Luxemburg 1978a, 406; quoted in Frölich 2010, 177). Luxemburg distinguished herself by standing by her words. In this regard, she was radical. And this alone is what made her a worthy speaker of truth. The truth of her speech lay in the truth of her life, and her speaking of truth was above all the expression of a truth vouched for in personal life. She was of the same mind as the Book of Revelation: ‘So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth’ (R evelation 3,16). Third, speaking truth expresses faith in those spoken to. They as well should not remain lukewarm, neither as political subjects nor as humans. Thus wrote Luxemburg to Kostja Zetkin in preparation for the ‘Junius Pamphlet’: ‘Today, I was at an opera house concert, Beethoven’s piano concert was gorgeous. While I listened to the music, there grew within me a cold hatred of the thugs under whom I must live. I feel that now a book must be written about what’s happening that neither man nor woman has read, not even the oldest people, a book that would smash this herd with crushing blows’ (Luxemburg 1987g, 28). By speaking truth, she wanted to urge others to take up the true life, to compel them to do so with force of language. What she demanded of herself—to liberate herself through her own strength, and to not allow herself to become shackled with new fetters—is inseparable from what she demanded of the masses. A social transformation that was not simultaneously a life-enriching, solidary transformation of the self was something she strictly rejected. The demand for truth as a demand of others pertained also to her personal relationships, as is especially visible in a letter to Leo Jogiches, her life partner, from 21 March 1895: Ah, you Gold! I have some very fearsome intentions for you, you know! Really, while I’ve been here, I’ve been letting it run through my head a little, the question of our relationship, and when I return I’m going to take you in my claws so sharply that it will make you squeal, you’ll see. I will terrorize you completely. You will have to submit [pokorit’sa]. You will

18

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

have to give in and bow down. That is the condition for our living together further. I must break you, [and] grind the sharp edges off your horns, or else I can’t continue with you. You are a bad-tempered person, and now, within myself, I am as sure of that as that the sun is in the sky, after having thought about your entire spiritual physiognomy. And I’ll smother this rage and fury that you have in yourself as sure as I’m alive. Such weeds can’t be allowed to get in among the cabbages. I have the right to do this because I’m ten times better than you, and I quite consciously condemn this very salient aspect of your character. (Luxemburg 2011e, 32)

Fourth, for Luxemburg, to speak truth was to produce a true reality— truer relationships, truer forms of life, truer politics—be this reality as it may an ontological anticipation [Vor-Schein], as Ernst Bloch termed it (cf. Jameson 1971, 150 for translation). Her speech praxis took itself to be a lived anticipation of that which is possible, which could become reality, if people live in truth. In her work The Russian Revolution, she formulated an alternative vision to the emerging ‘real socialism’ in the Bolshevik mould: ‘The socialist sys-tem of society should only be, and can only be, an historical product, born out of the school of its own experiences, born in the course of its realisation, as a result of the developments of living history, which—just like organic nature of which, in the last analysis, it forms a part—has the fine habit of always producing along with any real social need the means to its satisfaction, along with the task simultaneously the solution’ (Luxemburg 2004b, 306). This socialism would be a society of lived diversity, one whose innermost content would approach Rosa Luxemburg, the Rosa Luxemburg of whom Paul Levi wrote the following in 1922: ‘At the bottom of her consistent soul, she knew no divisions and walls. For her, the universe was a living process of becoming, in which leverage and oxygen-reserves cannot replace the workings of nature, in which the struggle, striving and contention of human beings, the great struggle that is incumbent on individuals, generations, strata and classes, is the form of becoming. This did not mean she did not want people to struggle because everything happens of itself, she rather wanted the most active struggle, since this is the most active form of becoming’ (Levi 2011, 251). Fifth, Luxemburg’s speaking of truth stemmed from Marxism. As J.P. Nettl emphasised, ‘[s]he made Marxism real and important in a way which neither Lenin nor Kautsky nor any other contemporary was

1

SHOW US THE MIRACLE! WHERE IS YOUR MIRACLE?

19

able to achieve […]. She was total where Lenin was selective, practical where Kautsky was formal, human against Plekhanov’s abstraction’ (Nettl 1966a, 7). Her thinking ‘is an historically enriched reflection in constant motion (Löwy 2020, 40). Luxemburg lived the contradictions of Marxism and set herself in motion in order to promote the self-emancipation of the working classes. For her, it was neither a pure doctrine nor an order of the convinced, neither formalised ideology nor a mere political instrument, but rather a way of life and the only possible— revolutionary—Realpolitik. As she wrote in 1903, Luxemburg saw herself confronted with the ‘undeniable’ fact that ‘Marx has had a somewhat restrictive influence upon the free development of theory in the case of many of his pupils’ (Luxemburg 1978b, 364). She referred to the ‘scrupulous endeavour to keep “within the bounds of Marxism”’ which ‘may at times have been just as disastrous to the integrity of the thought process as has been the other extreme—the complete repudiation of the Marxist outlook, and the determination to manifest “independence of thought” at all hazards’ (ibid). This of course raises the question whether within the framework of Marxism—or, within which Marxism—the contradictions lived by Luxemburg can be discussed productively.

Freedom Is Always the Freedom of the Others Against all opportunism, Luxemburg claimed that true freedom, as opposed to covert pressure to fit in, must actively promote the freedom of others in their otherness. In this regard, she anticipated modern social movements. She strove for a vibrant world, one in which many worlds would have a place. Equality under freedom is an equality of differences. Comportment as a free human being, as she understood and practised it, consists precisely of giving others the possibility to be free as others. And before this freedom becomes a right, it exists as the imperative to overcome all relationships of exploitation and oppression—especially towards those who think differently—involved in one’s own actions. After all, no one has freedom by either nature or birth. Human dignity, like human freedom, is vulnerable and requires protection. Individuals cannot win rights for themselves in perpetuity when they do not grant rights to others and support them in their actions for emancipation. Failing to do so, they will themselves become oppressors and exploiters. Above all, freedom must be given, must be fought for and won for others in order to itself be free—otherwise, it is merely stolen or bought.

20

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Freedom, according to Rosa Luxemburg’s conception of it, is infinitely far removed from market-liberal egoism or the cult of self-actualisation. Freedom, as practised by Rosa Luxemburg herself as a social virtue, was a struggle for the freedom of others. A free society is not one in which citizens only defend themselves against their own oppression. As experience shows, such citizens will all too hastily partake in the oppression of others when doing so is permitted by power relations and appears advantageous to their own interests. Only those are truly free who defend others from oppression, even when they themselves would profit from it. Luxemburg envisioned freedom in part as a way of acting that builds relationships through which others gain access to the conditions of freedom. This applies equally to the question of the fundamental goods of freedom, such as the dismantling of privileges that do not contribute to overcoming social inequality. However, dismantling such privileges is impossible without fundamentally transforming relationships of property and power, and without overcoming the dominance of profit over economy and society. This is why she was a socialist. Only that society can be called free in which every individual is free. Yet this is only possible if the free development of each contributes to the solidary development of all. And according to Luxemburg, only blind believers or cynics can believe that the ‘invisible’ hand of the market or the ‘visible’ hand of the state will ensure this happens without our involvement. To not be involved would mean nothing other than to comfortably or cowardly delegate the responsibility for freedom to others and thereby to become unfree. In this sense, politics for Luxemburg was always rebellious participation in emancipatory, solidary praxis. The freedom to invest money whose movement leads to a totalitarian form of capital accumulation, its domination of global society and its distribution of wealth and poverty, health and sickness, education and illiteracy, peace and war between opposing social groups, classes, peoples and parts of the globe—this was for Rosa Luxemburg cruel oppression. A freedom that consists of a small percentage of the globe’s population consuming most of its resources was denounced by her as brutal domination. The highly militarised ‘peaceful world order’ was for her the militaristic politics of empire ending in ever new wars. The recently established freedom to acquire genetic codes and bodies of knowledge as private property would have been castigated by her as criminal plunder. The annihilation of earth’s biodiversity replete with the abuse of its fauna,

1

SHOW US THE MIRACLE! WHERE IS YOUR MIRACLE?

21

and destruction of its fauna would have been condemned by her as utmost barbarism. Among the most persistent prejudices of liberal society is the idea that freedom stands opposed to equality and justice. Rosa Luxemburg’s conception of freedom has solidarity as its basis. Only those who enable others to lead free lives act justly. Such a conception of freedom as grounded in solidarity and aiming at equality in the freedom of diversity is not only extremely critical of the transformation of freedom into the barbarism of the privileged usufruct of social liberties, but also of all social structures and the power relations entailed by them which enable this barbarism. That saying she constantly invoked, ‘socialism or barbarism’, could also be rendered as ‘freedom or barbarism’. And the proposition ‘freedom or socialism’ would be just as nonsensical to her as the proposition ‘freedom or freedom’. To have left behind this legacy, to have displayed it in her life, is what constitutes the miracle that is Rosa Luxemburg.

Bibliography Bernstein, Eduard. 1998. Die deutsche Revolution 1918/19. Geschichte der Entstehung und ersten Arbeitsperiode der deutschen Republik. Bonn: J. H. W. Dietz. Caysa, Volker. 2017. Rosa Luxemburg - die Philosophin. Leipzig: RosaLuxemburg-Stiftung Sachsen. Foucault, Michel. 2010. The Government of Self and Others: Lectures at the Collège de France 1982–1983. Edited by Frédéric Gros, trans. Graham Burchell. London: Palgrave MacMillan. Frölich, Paul. 2010. Rosa Luxemburg: Ideas in Action, trans. Johanna Hoornweg. Chicago: Haymarket Books. Gioia, Vittantonio. 1989. Rosa Luxemburg und Antonio Gramsci: Zur ökonomischen Entwicklung im Monopolkapitalismus. Die Linie Luxemburg - Gramsci. Zur Aktualität und Historizität marxistischen Denkens. Argument Sonderband aS 159: 33–50. Hetmann, Frederik. 1998. Eine Kerze, die an beiden Seiten brennt. Freiburg: Herder. Jameson, Fredric. 1971. Marxism and Form: Twentieth Century Dialectical Theories of Literature. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Jens, Walter. 1995. Rosa Luxemburg: Weder Poetin noch Petroleuse. In Rosa Luxemburg, ed. Kristine von Soden, 6–17. Berlin: Elefanten Press.

22

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Kautsky, Luise. 1929. Rosa Luxemburg: Ein Gedenkbuch. Berlin: E. Laubsche Verlagshandlung. Krauß, Cornelia. 1999. Cornelia Krauß: Zum Bild Rosa Luxemburgs in der Frauenforschung. In Rosa Luxemburg: “Ich bin ein Land der unbeschränkten Möglichkeiten”, ed. Margarete Maurer, 23–36. Wien: RLI-Verlag. Levi, Paul. 2011. In the Steps of Rosa Luxemburg: Selected Writings of Paul Levi. Leiden and Boston: Brill. Löwy, Michael. 2020. Rosa Luxemburg: Der zündende Funke der Revolution. Hamburg: VSA. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1918. A Duty of Honor. Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1972a. Änderungsanträge zum Resolutionsentwurf August Bebels über die imperialistische Politik (1907). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 2, 235–236. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1972b. In revolutionärer Stunde: Was weiter? (1905). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 2, 11–36. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1978a. Verteidigungsrede am 20. Februar 1914 vor der Frankfurter Strafkammer. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, 395–406. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1978b. Karl Marx (1903). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.2, 369–377. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1982a. Brief an Leo Jogiches vom 24. Juni 1898. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 1, 154–162. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1982b. Brief an Leo Jogiches vom 19. April 1899. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 1, 307–308. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1982c. Brief an Kostja Zetkin vom 23. September 1909. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 3, 84–85. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1982d. Brief an Kostja Zetkin vom 13. Mai 1907. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 2, 289–290. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1987a. Brief an Luise Kautsky vom 18. September 1915. In Gesammelte Briefe, Bd. 5, 74–76. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1987b. Brief an Mathilde Jacob vom 9. April 1915. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 5, 52–54. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1987c. Brief an Hans Diefenbach vom 7. Januar 1917. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 5, 156–159. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1987d. Brief an Heinz Dietz vom 28. Juli 1916. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 5, 130–131. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1987e. Brief an Mathilde Jacob vom 23. Februar 1915. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 5, 47–48. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1987f. Brief an Hans Diefenbach vom 8. März 1917. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 5, 187–189. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1987g. Brief an Kostja Zetkin vom 24. Dezember 1914. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 5, 28–29. Berlin: Karl Dietz.

1

SHOW US THE MIRACLE! WHERE IS YOUR MIRACLE?

23

Luxemburg, Rosa. 2004a. The Mass Strike, the Political Party, and the Trade Unions [1906]. In The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, ed. Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, 168–199. New York: Monthly Review Press. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2004b. The Russian Revolution (1918). In The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, ed. Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, 281–310. New York: Monthly Review Press. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2011a. Letter to Hans Diefenbach, Wronke in Posen, March 5, 1917. In The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg, ed. Georg Adler, Peter Hudis, and Annelies Laschitza, trans. George Shriver, 377–380. London and New York: Verso. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2011b. Letter to Hans Diefenbach, Wronke in Posen, March 30, 1917. In The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg, ed. Georg Adler, Peter Hudis, and Annelies Laschitza, tran. George Shriver, 380–387. London and New York: Verso. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2011c. Letter to Leo Jogiches, Berlin, May 1, 1899. In The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg, ed. Georg Adler, Peter Hudis, and Annelies Laschitza, trans. George Shriver, 116–119. London and New York: Verso. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2011d. Letter to Mathilde Wurm, Wronke, February 16, 1917. In The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg, ed. Georg Adler, Peter Hudis, and Annelies Laschitza, trans. George Shriver, Auflage New, 373–377. London and New York: Verso. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2011e. Letter to Leo Jogiches, Paris, March 21, 1895. In The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg, ed. Georg Adler, Peter Hudis, and Annelies Laschitza, trans. George Shriver, 27–33. London and New York: Verso. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2016. Herbarium. Herausgegeben von Evelin Wittich und mit einem Vorwort von Holger Politt. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2017a. Mehr Sozialismus (1915). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 7.2, 935–938. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2017b. Kalender für das Jahr 1917. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 7.2, 971–991. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2017c. Unter einer Regierungspartei (1917). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 7.2, 995–998. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2017d. Beitrag auf einer der drei Protestveranstaltungen am 1. Februar 1910 in Berlin. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 7.2, 577. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Nettl, Peter J. 1966a. Rosa Luxemburg. In Two Volumes. Volume 2. London: Oxford University Press. Nettl, Peter J. 1966b. Rosa Luxemburg: In Two Volumes. Volume 1. London: Oxford University Press. Pilawski, Krzysztof, and Holger Politt. 2020. Rosa Luxemburg. Spurensuche: Dokumente und Zeugnisse einer jüdischen Familie. Hamburg: VSA.

24

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Roland-Holst, Henriette. 1937. Rosa Luxemburg. Ihr Leben und Wirken. Zürich: Jean Christophe Verlag. Veerkamp, Ton. 2013. Die Welt anders. Politische Geschichte der Großen Erzählung. Hamburg und Berlin: Argument. Zetkin, Clara. 2016a. Brief an Mathilde Jacob. In Die Kriegsbriefe. Band 1. Herausgegeben von Marga Voigt, 355–356. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Zetkin, Clara. 2016b. Die Kriegsbriefe. Band 1. Herausgegeben von Marga Voigt. Berlin: Karl Dietz.

CHAPTER 2

The Blighted Authority of Engels and Kautsky

These learned Marxists have forgotten the ABC of socialism. Rosa Luxemburg (1974, 408)

Returning to Marx---but to Which One? In the last public speech of her life, given on 31 December 1918 during the founding conference of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), Luxemburg proclaimed in justification of the party program: ‘But today we have reached the point, comrades, when we can say that we have rejoined Marx, that we are advancing under his flag’ (Luxemburg 2004, 363). For her, the unity of (Marxist) theory and praxis needed to be reestablished. But which Marx, and which of his theoretical approaches, did she have in mind? In her speech at the party conference, Luxemburg distinguished between the positions advocated for by Marx and Engels around the turn of 1848 in the Manifesto of the Communist Party from those that they developed following the defeat of the Paris Commune. According to Luxemburg, in the lead up to the Revolution of 1848, ‘In common with all the leading spirits in the proletarian movement, both Marx and Engels then believed that the immediate task was the introduction of socialism. All that was necessary, they thought, was to bring about a political revolution, to seize the political power of the state in order to make socialism immediately enter the realm of flesh and blood. © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 M. Brie and J. Schütrumpf, Rosa Luxemburg, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67486-1_2

25

26

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Subsequently, as you are aware, Marx and Engels undertook a thoroughgoing revision of this standpoint’ (Luxemburg 2004, 357). Henceforth, there was a distinction between a maximal programme and a minimal programme. This revision of the strategy of the Communist Manifesto was located by Luxemburg in the preface to the 1872 German edition. While no ‘thoroughgoing revision’ is in fact recognisable there (Marx/Engels [1872] 1980)—Marx and Engels expand mostly upon the meaning of replacing the machinery of the bourgeois state in a proletarian revolution—they had come to accept that the bourgeois order in Western and Central Europe had entered a long phase of relative stability. This entailed a war of position which was fundamentally different from the revolutionary situation of 1848.

The Maximal Programme and the Minimal Programme While Marx and Engels largely took on the role of critical-solidary advisors with respect to German Social Democracy, an 1880 enquiry from France gave them the chance to be directly involved with the drafting of a socialist party program. 1879 saw the founding of the Parti ouvrier français (POF) under the leadership of Jules Guesde and Paul Lafargue. Both turned to Marx and Engels seeking help formulating a party programme to be put up for discussion and for a vote at the party conference in Le Havre in November 1880. In a meeting at the beginning of May that year held in Engels’s London residence at 122 Regent’s Park Road, a document was drafted consisting of two sections. The first of these, the preamble, was formulated by Marx. This was then followed by a brief catalogue of social and democratic demands, the ‘minimal programme’, which emerged from the discussions between the four participants. The programme in its entirety had a clear politicalstrategic function: it served to uncompromisingly distance the party from all socialist currents in France which could be described as ‘Possibilists’— currents which pursued political goals by exhausting as many possibilities for doing so within bourgeois society as they could. A proletarian revolution was ruled out by them as such a possibility. In its origin, Marx’s distinction between the maximum and minimum programmes was made in opposition to such ‘reformist’ conceptions. Accordingly, struggles for

2

THE BLIGHTED AUTHORITY OF ENGELS AND KAUTSKY

27

the possible in the here and now were subordinated to the ultimate goal— ‘the revolutionary action of productive class’ and the ‘return of all means of production to collective possession’. In the preamble to the party programme, Marx summarised his understanding of critical-proletarian communism. If any document expresses the essence of Marxian communism, it is this one, even though it is rarely cited. Below it is reproduced in its entirety: Considering, That the emancipation of the productive class is that of all human beings without distinction of sex or race; That the producers can be free only when they are in possession of the means of production; That there are only two forms under which the means of production can belong to them The individual form which has never existed in a general state and which is increasingly eliminated by industrial progress; The collective form the material and intellectual elements of which are constituted by the very development of capitalist society; Considering, That this collective appropriation can arise only from the revolutionary action of the productive class—or proletariat—organized in a distinct political party; That a such an organization must be pursued by all the means the proletariat has at its disposal including universal suffrage which will thus be transformed from the instrument of deception that it has been until now into an instrument of emancipation; The French socialist workers, in adopting as the aim of their efforts the political and economic expropriation of the capitalist class and the return to community of all the means of production, have decided, as a means of organization and struggle, to enter the elections with the following immediate demands: […]. (Marx 1989, 340)

The ‘minimal programme’ was divided into a political and an economic section. The political section demanded a comprehensive freedom of the press, of assembly and of association, and the abolition of discriminatory laws for wage workers; the nationalisation of Church holdings; the general armament of the people and the expansion of municipal autonomy. The economic section concentrated on limiting work hours, a ban on child labour, a legal minimum wage, equal pay for female and male workers, publicly funded polytechnical education, working-class autonomy and the

28

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

participation of workers in determining the regulation of factory work. Also included here were demands for the annulment of all contracts which had privatised public goods, the transfer of the ownership of state-owned factories to their workers and the abolition of all indirect taxes and exclusive financing of state expenses from a progressive tax on incomes of over 3000 francs and on inheritances of over 20,000 francs. (cf. footnote 384 in vol. 24 of Marx/Engels Collected Works, 638). The Programme of the French Workers’ Party from 1880 became a model for the later famous Erfurt Programme. Engels’s confidantes Karl Kautsky and Eduard Bernstein took over the process of drafting it, with Kautsky responsible for the ‘Principles’ and Bernstein for the subsequent demands. In its structure and style, the Erfurt Programme matched the programme of the French party and became a paradigm for all future Marxist programmes within international Social Democracy. Additionally, it took up a position which pointed far beyond the working class: ‘The German Social Democratic Party […] does not fight for new class privileges and class rights, but for the abolition of class rule and of classes themselves, for equal rights and equal obligations for all, without distinction of sex or birth. Starting from these views, it fights not only the exploitation and oppression of wage earners in society today, but every manner of exploitation and oppression, whether directed against a class, party, sex, or race’ (Social Democratic Party of Germany 1891). The international dimension of the movement, as developed at the founding congress of the Second International in 1889, was also elaborated.

Settling Accounts with ‘Ersatz Marxism’ Rosa Luxemburg had begun to settle her accounts with that which she called Ersatz Marxism already before World War I with her castigation of Kautsky’s strategy of attrition. In her eyes, this strategy amounted to propagating socialism merely as a revolutionary phrase while in practice advising a defensive waiting for the right moment to come before taking power. In 1918, while still in prison, her account settling, as she called it, became harsher. As German troops partook in the suppression of the Finnish Council Republic in the spring of that year, she wrote: ‘The feats in Finland etc. are the bottom line on the bill of the old G[erman] Soc[ial] D[emocracy] and the Second Intern[ational]. They annihilate the old authority and the tactics of Engels—K[arl] K[autsky]’ (Luxemburg 2017, 1093). As the ‘tactical programme of Engels (1895)’ (Luxemburg 2017,

2

THE BLIGHTED AUTHORITY OF ENGELS AND KAUTSKY

29

1093) is not appropriate for the age of imperialism, good intentions have become a plague. The necessity of a new offensive was not accounted for. What Luxemburg referred to as the ‘tactical programme of Engels’ were the reflections on the strategy of a Marxist-oriented Social Democracy he made shortly before his death in his ‘Introduction’ to Marx’s Class Struggles in France, 1848–1850, a text which he unsuccessfully attempted to shield from modifications. The SPD leadership had ordered the party to operate in unconditional conformity to the law. An editorial in Vorwärts bearing the title ‘How to make revolutions today’ took quotations from Engels’s ‘Introduction’ out of context to make Engels appear, he wrote furiously to Kautsky, ‘as a peace-loving proponent of legality’, adding that something must be done so that ‘this disgraceful impression may be erased’ (Engels 2004, 486). The strategy recommended by Engels was quite clear. He assumed that growth in the SPD’s vote total would proceed ‘as irresistibly, and at the same time as tranquilly as a natural process’. By the end of the century (i.e. in five years!), the SPD would ‘have the greater part of the middle strata of society, petty bourgeoisie and small peasants, and we shall grow into the decisive power in the land, before which all other powers will have to bow’. His conclusion: ‘To keep this growth going without interruption until it gets beyond the control of the prevailing governmental system of itself, [not to fritter away this daily increasing shock force in vanguard skirmishes, but to keep it intact until the decisive day,] that is our main task’ (Engels 1990, 521f.; section in brackets was left out in Vorwärts and subsequently in Neue Zeit). On the one hand, the SPD should not let itself be drawn into armed conflict, yet on the other, it must remain in rigorous opposition to Imperial Germany and its state power. August Bebel’s position of mortal enmity towards capitalism was also that of Engels: ‘For this system, not one man and not one penny’. Engels’s ‘Introduction’ to Marx’s Class Struggles in France, 1848– 1850, lent the SPD’s closed parliamentary strategy legitimacy. What went ignored was that Engels was advocating a revolutionary strategy in times of relative calm. While Engels saw this strategy as a war of position for preparing the ultimate goal of an offensive, including with violent means, it was taken as a call for peaceful coexistence. The results were to be expected. As Luxemburg put it in her retrospective from prison in 1918: ‘The old G[erman] Social D[emocracy] was simply a sort of hermaphrodite. Its two elements: the radical phrase

30

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

and the oppor[tunistic] praxis. A revolutionary theory and a purely parliam[entary] politics’ (Luxemburg 2017, 1092). In discussions on the programme and strategy of the only recently founded KPD, Luxemburg contrasted the Engels-Kautsky tactic to the strategy of Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto. Above all, Luxemburg saw the difference in the fact that, differently from the turn of 1848, Marx and Engels concluded following the suppression of the Paris Commune that ‘it seemed as if the proletariat still had an infinitely long distance to travel before it could hope to realize socialism’ (Luxemburg 2004, 364). Now, however, at the end of 1918, it would be the Manifesto’s emergency programme and the task of the Spartacus League would prove to be largely identical. Her conclusion was that the ‘separation of the immediate, so-called minimal demands […] from the socialist goal regarded as a maximal program’ needed to be abolished: ‘For us there is no minimal and no maximal program; socialism is one and the same thing; this is the minimum we have to realize today’ (Luxemburg 2004, 365). Capitalism entered into a final crisis with the end of World War I from which the only ways out were anarchy and barbarism or democracy and socialism: ‘Socialism has become necessary not merely because the proletariat is no longer willing to live under the conditions imposed by the capitalist class but, rather, because if the proletariat fails to fulfill its class duties, if it fails to realize socialism, we shall crash down together to a common doom’ (Luxemburg 2004, 364). The only ‘ism’ that Luxemburg always accepted was unquestionably socialism, and this was entirely sufficient for her cause. In her presentation to the founding conference of the German Communist Party on 31 December 1918—attended by leftists of various ideological persuasions, including many overt followers of Marxist ideas—she returned once more to Marxism. As not to scare anyone off, she did not polemicise against Marxism in general, but rather distinguished between ‘official Marxism’ and ‘true Marxism’. For the new party, she, however, chose a different context. She stated not: ‘we have rejoined Marxism’, but rather we have rejoined Marx, we are advancing under his flag. If today we declare in our programme that the immediate task of the proletariat is none other than – in a word – to make socialism a truth and a fact, and to destroy capitalism root and branch, in saying this we take our stand upon the ground occupied by Marx and Engels in 1848, and from which in principle they never swerved. (Luxemburg 2004, 363)

2

THE BLIGHTED AUTHORITY OF ENGELS AND KAUTSKY

31

At the end of the uncompleted German Revolution of 1918–1919 stood neither doom nor socialism, but rather a long period of instability and the fragile Weimar Republic that was abandoned by elites to the Great Depression and delivered into the hands of Hitler and the NSDAP. Today, one hundred years later, confronted with a new Great Crisis, stands the question of what strategic aid we might gain from the Marxian legacy upon which Rosa Luxemburg drew time and again. What can we learn from Rosa Luxemburg that might help us find our way in the decisive situations of the present and fundamentally change our political course? What we can learn from Luxemburg is not ready-made knowledge, but is above all the way in which she faced the contradictions of the socialist movement. The orthodoxy of the Second International dealt with the contradictions of socialist politics as an external juxtaposition of ‘theory’ and ‘praxis’, ‘reform’ and ‘revolution’, of ‘the masses’, ‘party’ and ‘leadership’, of ‘here and now’ and ‘there and later’, of ‘we’ and ‘they’, of ‘democracy’ and ‘dictatorship’. This juxtaposition transformed with the onset of World War I into a deadly opposition between Social Democracy and Bolshevist Communism. Thus, an emancipatory reading of the works of Rosa Luxemburg is so difficult precisely because from the point where she begins her productive searching, she can never be pinned down to a rigid ‘position’. Rather, she explores ways of operating with the contradictions of socialist politics while calling for, seizing upon and generalising emancipatory forms of intermediating these contradictions. The linguistic forms she finds in order to maintain this emancipatory operating with contradictions are themselves in flux, depict transitions and demand the reader drop the simple ‘either-or’. Rosa Luxemburg is not a classic teacher, but rather a classic explorer of the unknown. The following analysis of her work will attempt to understand how she attempted to develop a revolutionary strategy in the era of imperialism. As she did so, she originated approaches which can be used today—approaches for a strategy of radical political transformation within and beyond capitalism.

Failing to Understand One’s Own Situation Sometimes the tragedy lies precisely in the fact, that it isn’t recognized as one. Leonid Leonidov (Russian aphorist)

32

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

The nationalist ‘awakening’ in August 1914 had finally shrunk the onceglorious left wing of the SPD to the size of a sect: from Martha Arendsee to Clara Zetkin, Peter Berten to Jacob Walcher, this landscape became very easy to survey. The reasons for this mass—and often quite shameless—defection at the onset of war by many from the left to the hawkish camp have not been fully explained. It is true that people quickly hit upon the word betrayal, which, although it offered no solace, at least arranged the world into good and bad—and suggested that the distribution of roles was clear from the beginning. But it explained nothing. The world of the German workers’ movement, at least that section of it inclined to anti-capitalism, was not simply something dreamed up from the vantage point of an armchair but an entity that had risen up in self-defence: against an industrial and commercial bourgeoisie that was protected by a militaristic authoritarian state, though in terms of feudal statuses, took a ‘Lord of the Manor’ standpoint, and for whom the ‘Fourth Estate’ counted for nothing. In response, a small, though steadily growing, outcast had created a world of their own; it was a ‘counter-world’—but not a planned pregnancy; the child was reluctantly borne. ‘These people’, in the parlance of gentleman riders, had equipped their ‘counter-world’ with a clear political goal, formulated by their political arm, the SPD, in its Erfurt Programme of 1891: the task of the ‘counterworld’ was not only to resist the bourgeois world, but—at the moment when the workers constituted the majority of voters—to conquer it, and then to proclaim socialism. Until that point, the rule was: the more seats in parliament, the more success could be expected in future. All of this was framed very politically, which put the anti-capitalist German workers’ movement clearly at odds with the international ‘norm’: this workers’ movement had not—as is usually the case—first and foremost emerged from economic struggles, but from a rapidly politicising workers’ education movement. The democratic revolution of 1848, which was crushed, and Bismarck’s ‘revolution from above’, together with the only slightly weakened authoritarianism of the state, had quickly led the struggles waged by this section of the working class in Germany into the political field. It was not the unions that were predominant, but a political party that claimed to unite the workers’ movement with socialism. From the outset, then, the promised felicity was more political than elsewhere, but it was also more persuasive, since it was certified by the workers’ own culture. In this organised ‘counter-world’, proletarians, even if they rose

2

THE BLIGHTED AUTHORITY OF ENGELS AND KAUTSKY

33

only slightly above their partners in suffering, found not only their means of survival, but frequently also a path to rapid social advancement, often combined with a deeply hidden hope of joining the ‘official’ society—if not in their own persons, then in those of their children. Those, too, who came from other strata and whose existence was not completely dependent on proletarian organisations or the production of their periodicals were less attracted by the ‘project’ declared by these outcasts: a socialism to be created in the future, the idea of a more just world. The real attraction for these intellectuals was the counterworld itself, which fed them mostly tacit soteriological hopes for a better world in the here and now. Considering the narrow, blinkered ‘official society’—imaginable only with difficulty today—that swung numbingly back and forth between subordinate and superman, while threatening to suffocate in its own bigotry, this initially utopian-seeming but ultimately often merely playful escape from traditional bourgeois conventions is not necessarily surprising. The disillusionment of most activists, however, occurred quite some time before 4 August 1914—after all, in this seemingly so alternative proletarian ‘counter-world’ the same thing ultimately took place as in ‘official society’. Shortly after the ‘counter-world’ emerged, its dramatis personae began to imitate the bourgeois example: the same struggles for power, the same intrigues and the same petty jealousies. The revisionism of someone like Eduard Bernstein—discussed later in Chapter 4—was anything but ‘betrayal’; it was merely the attempt to deal politically with this disillusionment. If Bernstein’s analyses missed the mark, he did offer easily digestible justifications for giving up any idea of an alternative to bourgeois, capitalist society. Of course, Bernstein’s interventions were not required; life was stronger in any case. The organised ‘counter-world’ of German social democracy was not a laboratory for alternative forms of life. Instead, it remained a makeshift solution in the face of an impasse and so was completely unable to fulfil the expectation of creating another, better world. The germ of its demise had been present since its birth—a disillusionment that was to be periodically repeated a few years later among idealistically inclined supporters of communist parties, who, despite very frequent forewarnings, had voluntarily delivered themselves up to an ostensibly emphatically proletarian, but ultimately inhuman practice. Ironically, nothing legitimated the bourgeois world, on the brink of falling into the delirium of war and its aftermath, as much as the European

34

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

social democracy movement, a wilting opposition hostile to the whole system but instead engaged in consuming itself, an opposition that felt as besieged by its bourgeois environment as the German fleet in World War I was by its British counterpart: ‘in being’ merely through the fact that it happened to exist, and ultimately—unlike the German fleet—capitulating needlessly. As far as Germany is concerned, we can add this: after the Sozialistengesetze and all the other chicanery that is often forgotten today (the three-class electoral system at the state level, the ban on associations, etc.) had only had the effect of promoting the social democracy movement, that part of the bourgeois world which did not abstain from thinking altogether decided to change tack: the rabble of yesterday was suddenly raised to the rank of ‘worthy of integration’; the newspaper staff had to open the door more than just a crack. The decision to turn back made individually by such leftists as Konrad Haenisch, Paul Lensch and Heinrich Schulz had often been reached well before 4 August—that was simply the date on which their train arrived at the station where the change could be conveniently made. With the vote for the war bonds on 4 August 1914, the organised anti-capitalist, proletarian ‘counter-world’ returned to the fold of ‘official society’; politically speaking, Ferdinand Lassalle’s life had been for nothing. Hardly any of them were in a position to discard their moral integrity—most of them not having had any in the first place. What remained was a handful of scattered individuals—tiny circles around Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin, Franz Mehring and Karl Liebknecht—the intellectuals who had joined this apparently alternative world exclusively on account of their ‘project’, of a socialism in whatever form. These individuals—depending on one’s perspective, either a righteous or quixotic few—lost not only most of their supporters and partners, they also lost the ‘counter-world’ itself, without understanding what was going on; they stood between the trees as they fell without having glimpsed the rotted forest. In the weeks of mounting war hysteria, it became clear that the substance of this ‘counter-world’ had long dissolved (although the form persisted up until 2 May 1933—up until the smashing of social democratic and union institutions by the Nazis). During the world war that followed, German leftists fought to make the socialist workers’ movement stand on its own two feet again; with the founding of the German Communist Party in 1918, they sought to initiate a new workers’

2

THE BLIGHTED AUTHORITY OF ENGELS AND KAUTSKY

35

movement—an attempt that lasted at best until 1921, when the party submitted to Bolshevik leadership. In this case, the loss of homeland was not the result of having been banished, but rather of the homeland disappearing from view. No one has examined this topic more brilliantly than Miguel de Cervantes—at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

Bibliography Engels, Frederick. 1990. Introduction to Karl Marx’s “The Class Struggle in France, 1848–1850” (1895). In Collected Works, vol. 27 , 506–524. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Engels, Frederick. 2004. Letter to Karl Kautsky, April 1, 1895. In MECW, vol. 50, 486. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1974. Versäumte Pflichten (1919). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, 521–524. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2004. Our Program and the Political Situation. In The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, ed. Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, 357–373. New York: Monthly Review Press. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2017. Handschriftliche Fragmente zur Geschichte der Internationalen, der deutschen Sozialdemokratie, zu Krieg, Revolution und Nachkriegsperspektiven (1918). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 7.2, 1088–1114. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Marx, Karl. 1989. Preamble to the Programme of the French Workers’ Party [1880]. In MECW, Volume 24, 340. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels. 1980. Preface to the 1872 German Edition of the Manifesto of the Communist Party. In MECW, vol. 23, 174–175. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Social Democratic Party of Germany. 1891. The Erfurt Program.

CHAPTER 3

The ‘Fully Fledged Marxist’ and the Polish Question

My ideal is a social system that allows one to love everybody with a clear conscience. Striving after it, defending it, I may perhaps even learn to hate. Rosa Luxemburg, age 16 (quoted in Seidemann 1998, 9)

From the time of her move to Berlin in May 1898 to her murder on 15 January 1919, the development of Rosa Luxemburg’s thought was characterised by her shift from the defence of the already briefly sketched ‘Engels-Kautsky strategy’ in the context of the Revisionismusstreit to ever more thorough-going revisions of this strategy, as well as by a search— whose end she would not live to see—for an alternative that would be at once radical and emancipatory. The following chapter traces the different stages of this search, beginning with the famed Revisionismusstreit, a dispute in which Luxemburg was already embroiled prior to her move to Berlin. For German Social Democrats, Luxemburg’s appearance in 1898 must have been akin to that of Minerva, Zeus’s feisty and battle-ready daughter, springing fully fledged from the head of Marx. She was accused of being ‘like a goddess descended from the clouds […] armed with seductive phrases to cast about’ (Laschitza 2014, 37). At just 27, she lit a fire beneath the old guard of the SPD when they failed to take immediate, forceful action against Eduard Bernstein’s revision of the theoretical foundations of their well-established strategy to wait for the breakdown of © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 M. Brie and J. Schütrumpf, Rosa Luxemburg, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67486-1_3

37

38

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

the system and in the meanwhile to strengthen one’s own positions avoiding a split in the party and dangerous conflicts with the ruling elites. In these debates, Luxemburg appeared more developed in her views, clearer in her positions and more unswervingly firm in her convictions than any who had come before. But she did not emerge from nowhere, and her Marxism had a very concrete background: the discussions among social democrats in Russian-occupied Poland concerning a cogent socialist strategy. Luxemburg’s Polish-Russian background also made her immune to what she later criticised as ‘nothing-but-parliamentarianism’. She always held the conviction that only a revolution could ultimately lead to the working class taking power.

The Founding of the Social Democracy Movement in Poland and Its Two Factions When reflecting on the time he spent teaching at the University of Zurich, Luxemburg’s doctoral supervisor Julius Wolf said that he ‘was entirely absorbed in the world of [his] lectures, [but] managed to give an academic foundation to the ablest of my pupils during my time at Zurich, Rosa Luxemburg, even though she came to me from Poland already as a thorough Marxist. She got her doctorate in political sciences under me with a first class dissertation about the industrial development of Poland’ (Nettl 1966a, 64). What does it mean to be a fully-formed Marxist in 1895, however, and what particular form did ‘being a Marxist’ (see W. F. Haug 2015) take in the case of the young Luxemburg? Which conditions shaped the formation of this identity? It is worth noting that Wolf did not meet Luxemburg immediately after she moved to Zurich in 1889, but rather a few years later. Although it is often claimed otherwise, Luxemburg was able to leave the Kingdom of Poland with an official passport. Furthermore, she was not on any list of official political enemies (see Seidemann 1998, 24). Her family made it possible for her to study in Switzerland. Luxemburg began her studies in the faculty of philosophy at the University of Zurich—at the time, the humanities and natural sciences both belonged to this faculty. She subsequently transferred to the faculty of governance and public policy, or Staatswissenschaften (literally ‘state sciences’), the home of the institute of national economy (see Stadler-Labhart 1978, 36f.). Starting in 1893, she took classes on political economy, attended Wolf’s lectures and in May 1897 successfully defended her dissertation, ‘The Industrial Development

3

THE ‘FULLY FLEDGED MARXIST’ AND THE POLISH QUESTION

39

of Poland’, receiving the distinction of magna cum laude. The following section will briefly outline the initial stages of Luxemburg’s development as a Marxist. Luxemburg’s initial Marxist identity emerged in the context of this very particular milieu formed by a group of Polish Social Democrats existing within the Russian Empire: this group was shaped by the Russiawide search for a revolutionary strategy on the one hand and on the other by the particular situation in Poland, one of the most economically advanced regions of Tsarist Russia.1 Additionally, the situation faced by revolutionaries had fundamentally changed since 1848. Social democracy needed to develop a concrete response to national liberation movements in the regions ruled by the four major empires controlling Central-Eastern and Southeastern Europe—the Czarist Russian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary and the Imperial State of Germany (see in detail for the social democratic discussion of this time Haupt 1974; Baier 2011). Firstly, any potential revolution in the Russian Empire had to answer the question of how exactly the Tsarist autocracy could be overthrown. The Narodniks, formed during the period of reforms following Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War that occurred in the 1860s and 1870s, sought to support the peasantry and facilitate a transition to socialism by unleashing the potential of obšˇcina (peasant village communities), particularly their elements of communal property ownership and autonomy. After failing in their attempt to ‘go to the people’ and incite them to action, they then hit upon the idea of galvanising the masses and clearing a way forward by assassinating the Tsar. The ultimately successful assassination (following several previous attempts) of Alexander II in 1881 showed this strategy to be a dead end, however. Searching for an alternative, Russian socialists turned their attentions west, where the labour movement demonstrated that there were other forces at play than just the peasantry and the bourgeoisie. Marx was a crucial influence in this regard. At the end of the 1870s, the foundations of a Marxist approach to social democracy began to coalesce around the figure of Georgi Plekhanov, and

1 This formation of Luxemburg’s positions was undoubtedly heavily influenced by Jogiches, although he always remained ‘in the background’ (Nettl 1966b, 66). Among contemporary scholars, Holger Politt has done the most work on the Polish dimension of Luxemburg’s activity (Luxemburg 2011a, 2012, 2013a, Luxemburg 2014a, 2015; Pilawski and Politt 2020).

40

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

in 1883, the group Liberation of Labour was formed among the diaspora in Switzerland. They took the position that the labour movement beginning to take shape in the Russian Empire had to assume control of the struggle for democracy and socialism (Plekhanov 1974). Secondly, all Polish revolutionaries who associated themselves with the social democratic position in Russia had to answer the question of how their conception of socialism could be reconciled with the struggle for the re-establishment of an independent Polish state. The uprisings of 1830 and 1861 had been brutally put down by Russian troops. At the same time, the Russian-occupied Kingdom of Poland (Russian Poland)2 had begun to experience accelerated industrial development. In her 1897 article for Sozialistische Monatshefte (Socialist Monthly), ‘Socialism in Poland’, Luxemburg provides a detailed history of the origins of the Polish social democracy movement in the Russian Empire, whose starting point she sees as being the founding of the political group Proletariat in 1882. Luxemburg sees them as focussing on the class antagonism between proletariat and bourgeoisie, noting critically that: The general comprehension of economic tendencies, however, was insufficient in providing the party with a clear path forward; what remained absent was an understanding of the active role played by the working class in the political development of the capitalist order. But it was precisely in this relation that the party took their inspiration not from the Western European movement but rather the ‘Narodnaya Volya’,3 who saw a surprise coup undertaken by a small revolutionary minority as the means by which to seize state power and set in motion a social revolution centred on the people. They considered terrorism to be the primary means by which to facilitate such a coup. (Luxemburg 1979a, 3)

2 From this point onwards, we will primarily refer to the Russian-occupied part of historic Poland using the term ‘Kingdom of Poland’. This term is based on an essentially fictitious personal union of the Tsarist and Polish crowns following the defeat of Napoleon. Following the unsuccessful uprisings, Tsarist authorities did everything they could to treat the annexed Polish territories as mere provinces of the broader Tsarist empire, dividing them up into separate administrative regions. The designation ‘Poland’ was banned and ‘Vistula Land’ used in its place. These actions formed part of a broader process of ‘Russification’. 3 Narodnaya Volya (Russian: People’s Will) was a secret organization active in Tsarist Russia at the end of the 1870s which sought to use propaganda and terrorism to bring down Tsarism. In 1881, they assassinated Alexander II.

3

THE ‘FULLY FLEDGED MARXIST’ AND THE POLISH QUESTION

41

Luxemburg perceived the true achievement of Proletariat, as being their clear renunciation of any attempt to re-establish an independent Polish state. From the beginning, founder and spiritual leader Ludwik Warynski ´ (1856–1889; died in a Tsarist prison) ‘ensured a clean break between the labour movement and nationalism’ (Luxemburg 1979a, 85) and emphasised the damage that a programme aimed at re-establishing a Polish state would do to the socialist struggle. ‘In so doing’, according to Luxemburg, ‘they had not solved the Polish question in its theoretical dimension. They had, however, formulated their practical position on it with all desired clarity’ (Luxemburg 1979a, 85). This position was also close to the one held by the aforementioned Kasprzak. This account articulates many of the concepts most important to the ‘fully fledged (Polish) Marxist’ at the time. It is an understanding of socialist strategy derived from the economic structure of society which seeks to meld reformist struggles with revolutionary objectives, emphasises the role of the labour movement as the central driving force for which there is no organisational or representational substitute, and categorically rejects any connection between the socialist struggle with the fight for the re-establishment of the Polish state. At the end of the 1880s and beginning of the 1890s, an autonomous labour movement began to take shape in the Kingdom of Poland. In May 1892, tens of thousands of textile workers in Łód´z undertook a general strike, which lasted nine days. In response, the Tsarist regime sent in the military and suppressed the uprising with such brutality that over 160 workers were killed. This triggered the founding of two Polish social democratic parties abroad. The first steps were taken by groups who met in Paris in late autumn 1892 and initiated the founding of the Polish Socialist Party (PPS). Two key decisions were made during this process: ‘First, the fate of the socialist movement in Poland was decoupled from the future development of the Russian movement, with the justification being that the socialist movement […] in Russia was still in its infancy […]. Secondly, the Polish socialist movement was from the very beginning tasked with extending its operations beyond the borders of the Kingdom of Poland, as the desired republic would have to be pieced together from further parts that did not fall exclusively within the current realm of Russia […]’ (Politt 2015, 10). According to the PPS, the path towards a Polish republic had to take the route of a workers’ uprising in the Kingdom of Poland.

42

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Another group of exiles from both the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania had formed in Zurich. Here, Leo Jogiches, Rosa Luxemburg, Julian Marchlewski and Adolf Warski developed a different strategy. In July 1893, they founded the Paris exile newspaper Sprawa Robotnicza (The Workers’ Cause), which Jogiches funded with his father’s inheritance. He also organised its distribution. In the first issue’s editorial, Luxemburg and Jogiches wrote: ‘The Russian worker—our brother in need, our comrade in arms. Just like us, he is beginning to understand that the fight against the Tsarist regime cannot be avoided. Poverty has awakened him, and he, too, is looking to join the struggle. Thus the Russian worker will form an alliance with us against our common enemy. Thus will Tsarist rule, which has forged us together, Poles and Russians, in the same smithy—slavery—face its downfall at the hand of its combined foes—the working people of Poland and Russia!’ (Luxemburg and Jogiches 2015, 25). Luxemburg and Jogiches held steadily to the idea that any ‘partial solidarity’ was the enemy of international solidarity that it was ‘an ambiguity concealing a snag: national antagonism’ (Luxemburg 1972a, 503). This reference to a common ‘people’ made up of workers was shared by those comrades whom Peter Nettl would later call Luxemburg’s ‘group of kindred spirits’ (Nettl 1966a, 137). The most important addition to the group in Zurich was Leo Jogiches, her lover and partner for many years. This was her concrete home—a network of interpersonal political relationships that lasted 30 years until Luxemburg’s and Jogiches’ murder. This sense of community with like-minded people and her own aspiration for a heightened life gave her the strength to explode the confines of orthodox Marxism and develop emancipatory approaches that would go beyond its limitations. All of this was still a long way off in 1893, however. Initially, Luxemburg made a name for herself as a Marxist social democrat in the strictest sense of the term. As the editor of Sprawa Robotnicza, and aged just 23, Luxemburg made her first appearance at the Second International, at their conference in Zurich from 6 to 12 August 1893, where she delivered a report on the development of social democracy in the Kingdom of Poland. On the one hand, she stressed the fundamental consensus that unified all of Europe’s Marx-inspired social democracy movement, namely ‘that the role of the social democratic party consists in taking the proletarian struggle against the existing social order, a struggle that develops within the capitalist economy with elementary force, and leading it in

3

THE ‘FULLY FLEDGED MARXIST’ AND THE POLISH QUESTION

43

consciousness of its goal; that the economic struggle for the everyday interests of the working classes and the struggle for democratic forms of governance represent preliminary struggles that the proletariat will have to win before being capable of overthrowing society as a whole’ (Luxemburg 1979b, 7). Speaking on behalf of the Zurich group, Luxemburg also explained why they saw the struggle for the re-establishment of the Polish state as incompatible with socialist goals and methods of struggle as well as the task of ending the suppression of Polish nationality. Let us examine her position at length: The programme to re-establish an independent Poland cannot effect political activity that serves the needs of the proletariat because it is not grounded in reality. A minimalist political programme that links together the working classes of the three Polish nations that exist (the first of which possesses relatively broad political freedom with universal suffrage [within the German empire], the second of which, possessing only a meagre few political rights, must still fight to secure universal suffrage [within the Hapsburg empire], and the third of which finds itself completely under the yoke of absolutism [in the Tsarist empire]) is currently a practical impossibility, because the political activity of the workers’ party must always correspond to the given political forms existent at a particular time. To embrace such a programme today as a legitimate political position would be tantamount to dispensing with all forms of political activity. But the working class must be politically active, and it can only be won over to realistic demands, for demands that generate a practical struggle in the here and now in the name of real, obvious, and important needs. An example of political action of this kind, based on real conditions, is the struggle for universal suffrage shared by the proletariat in Galicia and in all of Austria. For the proletariat of Poznan and Silesia the political programme entails cooperation with the German social democratic movement. The rallying cry of the proletariat of Russian Poland is the same as that which rouses the proletariat of the Russian empire as a whole, one which corresponds to the reality of their living conditions—down with absolutism! This programme results from the requirements of its everyday economic struggle just as much as it does from its socialist aspirations. By setting the attainment of political rights that best suit its own local interests as the goal, the programme simultaneously enables it to protect itself against the government’s policy of Russification. Finally, the programme also leads the working class down a straight path to the triumph of socialism, while also bringing it closer to the moments in which, through the definitive abolition of all oppression, the subjugation of Polish nationality will also

44

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

cease to exist and all cultural oppression will be deprived of its foundations. (Luxemburg 1979b, 12f.)4

In contrast to what is often assumed, Luxemburg’s rejection of the fight to re-establish a Polish state was not based on anti-nationalist sentiment. Instead, she understood that minimal and maximal political programmes had to form a coherent whole that the struggle in the here and now had to proceed from concrete needs and tangible possibilities. Only in this way could workers come to understand that these very concrete immediate aims would most effectively be realised through socialist struggle. She would later term this practical unity of immediate and long-term aims ‘revolutionary Realpolitik’. Setting goals that she considered unattainable—such as the re-establishment of a Polish state—would run in contradiction to this. She was of the opinion that centring the workers’ struggle around an independent Polish state would rupture this unity and sacrifice the socialist goal to that of creating a bourgeois nation state, without in fact being able to achieve the nationalist goal. Luxemburg believed that in a socialist commonwealth, the basis for any form of national oppression would crumble, and thereby to any question of belonging to a particular state. Local self-governance and cultural autonomy would be sufficient to end all forms of discrimination and enable all peoples to live out their own collective linguistic and cultural identity. The coexistence of different nations and nationalities in a single state was for her and many others in Eastern, Southeastern and Central-Eastern Europe a historical matter of course; in their eyes, all that remained was to overcome the forms of oppression intertwined within them. Luxemburg experienced this first-hand. In addition, should the proletariat have the strength ‘to realize the re-establishment of Poland in spite of the governments of the annexing countries and the Polish bourgeoisie, then it will also be capable of bringing about socialist transformation’ (Luxemburg 1979c, 22). To her, socialism appeared a more achievable goal than the re-establishment of an independent Polish state. Her primary political goal was neither a soon-to-be-realised socialism, nor Polish independence, but rather the overthrow of czarism as the necessary precondition for any sustainable progress in Europe. Moreover, she was deeply convinced that the Russian Social Democrats would not be able 4 Luxemburg also advocated for the same programme during the 1905 revolution in Tsarist Russia (Luxemburg 1979b, 51–57).

3

THE ‘FULLY FLEDGED MARXIST’ AND THE POLISH QUESTION

45

to overthrow the czar without the Polish socialists. This was why she attempted with all her intellectual brilliance to ‘decouple national identity from nation-state sovereignty’ (Piper 2018, 128) while consistently highlighting the difference between the national-state and nationality. Although the PPS successfully challenged her mandate for the congress of the Second International (winning by nine votes to seven), her speech left a lasting impression. This impression was so great that when recalling the events, the Belgian socialist leader Emile Vandervelde had seemingly forgotten that she had in fact lost the ballot: ‘I can still see her now, how she rose from among the delegates at the back and stood on a chair to make herself better heard. Small and looking very frail in a summer dress, which managed very effectively to conceal her physical defects, she advocated her cause with such magnetism and with such blazing oratory that she won the majority of the enchanted congress at once and they raised their hands in favour of the acceptance of her mandate’ (quoted in Nettl 1966b, 73). As a direct consequence of the defeat at the Zurich Congress in August 1893, the group around Leo Jogiches moved that same month to form the party Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland (SDKP, known from 1900 as the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, or SDKPiL). The party’s illegal founding convention held in Warsaw in March 1894 took the article written by Luxemburg and Jogiches in July 1893 as its party programme and determined that Workers’ Cause would act as its press organ. The institutionalised division of the young Polish social democracy movement into PPS and SDKP was complete; now, two opposing programmes and strategies went head to head in an often brutal contest for influence in the Polish regions as well as within the Second International. The greatest desideratum in the research on Rosa Luxemburg’s life continues to be her work in the Polish labour movement—even though this is where her struggle for socialism began. The party Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland (SDKP) was run from abroad for almost 20 years and saw its field of activity limited to the Russian Partition of Poland, particularly to the industrial regions of Łód´z, Warsaw and Białystok. Luxemburg could only be active in person in Russian-Polish territory during the Russian Revolution of 1905, where she was located from the end of December 1905 until her arrest on 4 March 1906. Thereafter, the Polish Jew lived the second part of her life, up until her murder as an

46

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

immigrant in Germany—where she was protected from Russia thanks to her German citizenship, acquired on the basis of a paper marriage. The SDKP viewed the overthrow of Russian czarism, the patron saint of all reactionary endeavours in Europe, as an unavoidable precondition for any sustainable political and social progress in Central and Eastern Europe. Luxemburg and her comrades thus concerned themselves with neither the Austrian and Prusso-German Partitions of Poland, nor reestablishing the Polish state as it existed before its partitioning in 1772, for the SDKP saw the demand for one unified Polish state—the central goal of the Polish Socialist Party (PPS)—as a mere distraction from toppling czarism that stabilised rather than weakened its rule. Moreover, the SDKP was hardly alone in rejecting the re-establishment of the Polish state: the Polish merchant and industrial bourgeoisie did so as well because its existence was dependent on the fact that the industries located in the Russian Partition of Poland were the most important in all of czarist Russia until the turn of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, the PPS would ultimately defeat the SDKP with the establishment of an independent Poland in 1918–19. Every researcher working on Rosa Luxemburg faces the dilemma that the Polish-based research largely ceased following the publication of her letters to Leo Jogiches in 1971 Ksiazka i Wiedza (cf. Luxemburg 1968). Since 2011, Holger Politt has translated a number of Luxemburg’s Polish texts into German—these texts offer comprehensive insights on Luxemburg’s views on the national question, her understanding of revolution and her examination of antisemitism (Luxemburg 2011a, 2011b, 2012, 2013a, 2014a, Luxemburg 2015a). However, they reveal almost nothing about Luxemburg as a party leader. The relationship between Luxemburg and Jogiches presents an even deeper secret. Jogiches fled Russia in 1890, where he was wanted for conspirative anti-czarist work in factories in Vilnius, the modern capital of Lithuania. Workers were forbidden from partaking in all forms of organisation and political education, which were brutally suppressed. Already as a 16-year-old, the son of a banking family had begun to organise illegal reading groups for workers. In view of the ever-present danger of betrayal, conspiratorial work meant leading a double life and having to constantly check one’s surroundings in order to avoid followed. Ultimately, it meant that no one could be trusted without reservation—that when in doubt, one could only rely on oneself. The more strictly the selfidentified revolutionaries followed the rules of the game of conspiracy, the

3

THE ‘FULLY FLEDGED MARXIST’ AND THE POLISH QUESTION

47

more successful their struggle against the hated czarist regime. In theory, they may have wanted to be democrats, but to survive they could not act in free cooperation. Rosa Luxemburg came to socialism through Leo Jogiches, or more accurately, through her love for Leo Jogiches. And it was together with Luxemburg that Jogiches developed—in contrast to the older social democratic parties in Western Europe—a vision of a democratically organised party and participatory democratic socialism. Luxemburg would become one of the most important advocates of this vision, before ultimately becoming one of its most important theorists. As a party leader, Luxemburg remained the second part of a tandem, yet one which became progressively equal after the turn of the twentieth century. Jogiches needed Luxemburg, as he never published himself. It is possible that his consciousness of having to lead a life in contradiction to his own ideas kept him from writing. For political work as a practice in the Russian Partition permitted only conspiracy; any attempt to build a democratically working party there would have amounted to suicide. Jogiches kept Luxemburg from engaging in practical work in Poland, which she complained to him about time and again. Ultimately, she led a political party whose members only came into contact with her in everyday political life while abroad if at all. At least up to now, the emerging picture of Luxemburg as an agitator in the Polish labour movement is essentially that of a journalist and theorist educating people from abroad while representing the party at the Second International. Intellectually and politically, Rosa Luxemburg had already left behind Russia and its political circumstances during her studies in Switzerland and work in Germany—work which was largely tolerated by the German state. In contrast to most of the revolutionary emigrants from Central and Eastern Europe, she enjoyed the advantage of not having been driven into exile because of her conspiratorial work. In Russia, she had the experience of engaging in such work herself, and initially at least, the original reason she went abroad was to study in the West. While most of the revolutionary Central and Eastern European emigrants lived emigrant lives—lives that took place outside of the mainstream, in what would be referred to in contemporary German-speaking discourse as Parallelgesellschaften, or ‘parallel societies’ (something which to some extent was true of Jogiches)—Luxemburg became a Western European, although she neither denied nor forgot her Polish roots. In the SPD, that is, within

48

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

German Social Democracy, Luxemburg continued to work as a journalist, just as she had done in movement’s Polish counterpart, and also became a celebrated debater—a possibility she did not have in Russia. Additionally, she started teaching at the SPD’s party school in 1908. Wherever political disputes arose, Rosa Luxemburg expressed her views with vehemence. However, she did not do so in secret circles, at least not intentionally, but rather, to the greatest extent possible, always in public— where authority can only be established through intelligence, strength of argument, persuasion and integrity.

Luxemburg’s Dissertation ‘The Industrial Development of Poland’ It was a characteristic of the Marxist tradition at the time that all political issues had to be settled not only practically but also on a theoretical level. The political efficacy of Marxism was thought to flow directly from its scientific rigour. Lenin’s assertion that ‘The Marxist doctrine is omnipotent because it is true’ (Lenin 1977a, 23) was not just an empty phrase, but a broadly-held conviction. Only Marxism seemed to have the answer to the questions posed by history. As put forward in The Communist Manifesto, ‘The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement’ (Marx and Engels 1976, 497). The task of the social democrats led by Jogiches and Luxemburg was therefore to come up with scientifically sound insights, based on the Marxist paradigm, that were superior to those of their opponents. This required studying the development of capitalism in the Kingdom of Poland, which became the subject of Luxemburg’s dissertation, the central concern of which was whether there existed economic powers that were capable of historic action and had a vested interest in the creation of a Polish state at the same time. During the same years in which Lenin, in exile in Siberia, was writing The Development of Capitalism in Russia with the aim of developing a scientific argument to underpin social democratic strategy in Russia, Luxemburg was pursuing the same goal with respect to Poland, with the

3

THE ‘FULLY FLEDGED MARXIST’ AND THE POLISH QUESTION

49

result published by Duncker & Humblot in 1898 under the more politically innocuous title The Industrial Development of Poland. This made her something of an anomaly in scientific circles: a woman and a Marxist with a first-class doctorate in political economy published by one of the most well-known academic presses in Germany. In her dissertation, Luxemburg had set herself a particularly challenging task: contradicting Marx and Engels on the issue of Poland while directly invoking their conception of history. For Marx and Engels, the struggle for the re-establishment of the Polish state was a self-evident matter of course. In the preface for the 1892 Polish edition of the Communist Manifesto, Engels quite unambiguously writes: […] the rapid development of Polish industry, outstripping that of Russia, is in its turn a new proof of the inexhaustible vitality of the Polish people and a new guarantee of its impending national restoration. And the restoration of an independent strong Poland is a matter which concerns not only the Poles but all of us. A sincere international collaboration of the European nations is possible only if each of these nations is fully autonomous in its own house. (Frederick Engels 1990, 274)

Luxemburg responded to this position with the following: ‘The statements made by the founders of scientific socialism can not and must not be interpreted as providing even so much as suggestions for the practical everyday programme of the Polish proletariat, because they only relate them to the eventualities of external affairs and not to the internal class struggle in Poland and the outcomes of its social development. In fact, in their source and their character these statements belong more in that wonderful time in which “Pole and revolutionary—at least in the national sense—were identical” […]’ (Luxemburg 1979c, 33; Engels 1977, 375). Here, Luxemburg is alluding to the fact that in the 1860s, Marx and Engels saw a successful Polish uprising against Tsarist rule as being of crucial importance to the democratic movement in Western Europe, as it would have weakened the Tsarist empire and broken its capacity for reactionary interventions in Central Europe. She counters by saying: ‘The majority of statements by socialists in Western Europe concerning Polish nationalist efforts exhibit the same idiosyncrasy: they typically arrive at judgments on the internal social character of these efforts in Poland based on the role they see these endeavours as playing in the broader international situation in Europe. In our opinion, it would be more appropriate

50

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

to do the opposite: deduce the role that these endeavours towards a unified Poland play for Europe from the character that they must have in Poland itself by virtue of its social conditions’ (Luxemburg 1979d, 42f.). In 1896, Luxemburg began to have her work published in Die Neue Zeit , a haven for Marxism as a science edited by Karl Kautsky. While her first extensive article for the journal depicted the tendencies in the Polish socialist movement in Austria and Deutschland, her second—and equally comprehensive—article, ‘Social Patriotism in Poland’, focused on the Russian Empire. For this article, she was able to draw upon studies that she had used as the basis for her dissertation. Her conclusion: ‘The tendencies of capitalist development in Poland thus lead to the economic absorption of the latter into the Russian empire. […] This direction of social development implies that there is currently no social class in Poland that is both interested in the re-establishment of Poland as an independent state and also has the means to realize this aspiration’ (Luxemburg 1979d, 46). Neither the nobility, the peasantry, the intelligentsia, the haute nor the petite bourgeoisie had both the desire and the ability to effect such a national struggle; either their interests stood in direct contrast to such an aim or they lacked the means to bring it about. In short, there was no possibility of both conditions being met. Nor, according to Luxemburg, was the Polish working class able to inherit the cause of national liberation. In her view, the strength of the working class was dependent on the economic progress that was linked to Poland’s integration in the combined Russian market: ‘Were the proletariat to make the independence of Poland a key part of their programme, it would slow down the process of economic development’ (Luxemburg 1979d, 50). Because Luxemburg saw socialism as the result of tendencies brought about by economic development, she identified the latter as largely being in the interests of the proletariat. Economic regression, she thought, would be unavoidable should Poland separate itself from Russia; prioritising national independence therefore seemed to her like a backward step. If the proletariat were to embrace the demand for the re-establishment of a Polish state of their own accord, then ‘it would be turning away from socialism, the proletariat’s ultimate goal and the end result of social development. Should it wish to move towards the realization of this goal, then it would have to turn its back on the aim of re-establishing an independent Poland’ (ibid.). It is a question of one or the other. At play here is a clear economic reductionism that flattens the

3

THE ‘FULLY FLEDGED MARXIST’ AND THE POLISH QUESTION

51

distinction between national and class-based forms of oppression. Actual oppression, however, is a ‘knot of control, the intertwining of different strands that support and maintain one another’ (Haug 2013, 11), which cannot be neatly disentangled as a set of class relations in the way that Luxemburg wishes. Thus, one cannot use ‘Marxist’ logic to determine which strand dominates the knot at a particular moment in time in the manner she suggests. Luxemburg’s dissertation on the industrial development of the Kingdom of Poland is, first of all, a comprehensive, clearly structured and empirically sound study of the integration of the growing Polish industrial sector into the Russian market. Secondly, it shows how the Tsarist government had a vested interest in a process that appears to be permanently tethering Poland to Russia. Thirdly, it puts forward the argument that the Polish bourgeoisie is completely fixated on Russia and would always call upon Tsarist despotism to suppress its own working class. The Polish bourgeoisie, Luxemburg argues, thus objected to national autonomy on both economic and political grounds. Just as in Marx’s first volume of Capital , Luxemburg also begins her economic analysis by invoking the dialectical nature of the historical process and ends her dissertation by extrapolating a revolutionary strategy from this conception of history: ‘The capitalist fusing of Poland and Russia is generating, as its end result, something which has been equally overlooked by the Russian government, the Polish bourgeoisie and the Polish nationalists: the union of the Polish and Russian proletariats as the future receiver in the bankruptcy of, first, the rule of Russian Tsarism, and then the rule of Polish-Russian capital’ (Luxemburg 2013b, 74). Consequently, she was a strict advocate for the unification of all of the social democratic forces within a given country. Her position was that ‘only through a single consolidated political organization that brings together all of the proletarian forces in a country for a unified collective political struggle can the specific legitimate endeavours of the various sections of the proletariat expect to come to fruition’ (Luxemburg 2014b, 74). At the same time, however, Luxemburg fiercely defended the autonomy of her own Polish party with respect to the Russian social democratic movement. This is why when Luxemburg came to Germany in 1898, her Marxism could appear so ‘fully-formed’; the political strategy formulated among her circle of Polish-Lithuanian socialists corresponded exactly to the

52

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

understanding of Marxism hegemonic among the socialist workers’ movement at the time. In an Eastern European context, however, it possessed a particular revolutionary edge. Key tenets of this Marxism were (1) the inexorable development towards capitalism that had occurred, (2) a concomitant rise of the workers’ movement to the point where it would represent a revolutionary force for democracy and socialism, (3) common interests above all national differences, (4) the closest possible connection between the struggle to assert immediate social, political and cultural interests and the struggle to realise the ultimate goal and socialism, and (5) the education of the workers on this basis through a Social Democratic Party. As Tony Cliff describes Luxemburg: ‘To Germany she brought the “Russian” spirit, the spirit of revolutionary action. To Poland and Russia she brought the “Western” spirit of workers’ self-reliance, democracy and self-emancipation’ (Cliff 1959, 94). Luxemburg therefore brought a revolutionary tone and resolute attitude to the SPD that was completely alien to many rising party officials. Within Marxism, Luxemburg’s dissertation was an original achievement that, in its political conclusions, contradicted the position developed by Marx and Engels with respect to the re-establishment of the Polish state and that implicitly raised the issue of the contradictory relationships that social and national liberation struggles could have with one another, an issue which Marx himself was at no point able to offer a convincing general resolution to. Luxemburg’s Marxism in the 1890s was a holistic combination of strategy and theory, the composition of which was dependent on the fixed position of each and every one of its components. An attack on any one of these threatened to cause the entire structure to collapse. It was for this reason she subjected Bernstein’s revision of Marx to such particularly strong criticism; for her, it was about all or nothing. Before turning to her disputes with Bernstein section after next, we shall now make a brief excursion into the future and examine Luxemburg’s positions on the question of nationality and autonomy at the midpoint of the 1900s.

3

THE ‘FULLY FLEDGED MARXIST’ AND THE POLISH QUESTION

53

A Return to the Polish Question---1908–1909 On 13 March 2018, a gap suddenly appeared in the plaster outside the house in which Luxemburg is said to have been born,5 where a commemorative plaque had previously been hanging since 1979. Suddenly, this trace of Luxemburg had been erased. This act is part of a new politics of remembrance and repression enacted by the current conservative Polish government. Luxemburg is accused of being hostile to the reestablishment of the Polish state and refusing the people their right to national self-determination. But the truth is concrete (see Politt 2012, on whose work we base our position). If one wishes to understand Luxemburg’s position on the reestablishment of a Polish state, it is above all key to grasp that unlike other socialists, she based her thinking on the belief that ‘the borders between the large territorial states’ that had divided up Poland among themselves were ‘unalterable’. ‘She was unable to anticipate the incisions, distortions, and violent changes that World War I would visit upon the political landscape of Europe only a few years later. In contrast, those who had championed the cause of independent nation states in Central and Eastern Europe, such as Piłsudski in Poland, would instead find themselves centre stage’ (Politt 2012, 30). As Luxemburg herself said at the International Socialist Congress in June 1900, she and her comrades were convinced ‘that the proletariat is incapable of either changing the existing political and capitalist geography or creating new bourgeois states, but is instead forced to organize itself according to the established and historically produced foundations that exist in order to seize socialist power and forge a socialist republic’ (Luxemburg 2014c, 303). Unlike Lenin, she did not take into account ‘all possible, and even all conceivable combinations’ (Lenin 1977b, 458). By the end of World War I, the three empires that had divided Poland between them since 1772 had collapsed. The geography of the region had radically changed, and a previously only ‘conceivable’ scenario had in fact occurred. But all of Luxemburg’s statements on the issue of Polish independence can only be properly understood if one accepts that she had completely ruled out the possibility of this situation occurring. She wished to understand how a socialist political programme could be realised by Polish Social Democrats under 5 It is likely that Luxemburg’s family actually moved into this house several months after her birth (see Politt 2018).

54

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

the condition of the stable existence of the Russian, German and Hapsburg empires, not in a situation of their collective collapse. Luxemburg published her most extensive work on this subject across 1908–1909 for Przegld Socjaldemokratycny, a journal edited by Jogiches, under the title ‘The Problem of Nationality and Autonomy’. Luxemburg’s starting point was that revolutionary Realpolitik must not allow itself to be guided by abstract ideals that could not be implemented. She saw the creation of a modern nation state in Poland as an example of such an ideal, which she took to be a ‘chimera’ (Luxemburg 2015b, 45). Politics had to be practised at ground level: The demands of the political programme have been conceived with the specific goal of enabling an immediate, practical, and feasible solution to the urgent issues of social and political life which intervene directly in the proletarian class struggle and which can be implemented at the ground level of the bourgeois system. This is so they might serve as signposts for everyday politics and its needs, so that they kickstart the workers’ party into action and in the appropriate direction, so that they finally draw a clear boundary between the revolutionary politics of the proletariat and those of the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois parties’ (Luxemburg [1908/1909] 2012: 50). She adds that ‘the socialism of the modern working class, particularly scientific socialism, does not automatically indulge in the most radical and courageous sounding solutions to social and national issues, but instead first examines what action is actually necessary’. (Luxemburg 2012, 59)

If one defines patriotism as being the love of and respect for one’s own culture and a dedication to the people who embody it, then Luxemburg was certainly a wholehearted Polish patriot. For her, however, it was socialism rather than a Polish nation state that would enable the free expression of Polish culture: ‘A society will first be able to exercise selfdetermination when it possesses the ability to consciously determine its economic existence and conditions of production. “Nations” will only control their own historic destiny when human society as a whole is in control of the social process’ (Luxemburg 2012, 72). The path that leads towards the nation state is a diversion if capitalism has already taken hold in a major territorial state. It is a path that ultimately leads back into the past, Luxemburg stressed (Luxemburg 2012, 93 and 103). Luxemburg proceeded from a set of assumptions that must be taken seriously if one wishes to understand the conclusions she went on to

3

THE ‘FULLY FLEDGED MARXIST’ AND THE POLISH QUESTION

55

draw—whether or not one shares these initial assumptions. Above all, she stressed that all large nation states are ‘states of conquest’ (Luxemburg 2012, 66), which create empires for themselves while forcing smaller states to become totally dependent on them. There can thus be no question of true self-determination (see Luxemburg 2012, 65), even if these smaller states do enjoy complete formal independence. Given capitalism’s tendency towards centralisation, from her point of view any attempts to found new nation states in Europe could only have a reactionary effect and would result in an increased suppression of national minorities. The democratisation of the aforementioned large territorial states and the winning of civil and cultural freedoms, particularly the freedom to speak and cultivate one’s own language and culture and the development of corresponding education systems, seemed to her the only possible progressive path available under the given circumstances. It is for this reason that she consciously referred to the question of ‘nationality’ as opposed to ‘nation’. Her vision was of a radical democratisation of the territorial states that would trigger a socialist revolution in Eastern and East-Central Europe. She was convinced that struggles for the establishment of specific nation states would inevitably supplant the struggle for socialism and weaken progressive forces. Luxemburg did not follow Lenin in believing that the nationalism of every oppressed nation had ‘a general democratic content’ (Lenin 1977c, 412) and sought to demonstrate that such general content of that kind could only emerge from the struggle to democratise the nation state as a whole. For Lenin, the ‘nationalism of the Great Russians’ was the true danger as it was ‘a feudal nationalism’ (Lenin 1977c, 412). But it was precisely this reactionary character that Luxemburg accused Polish nationalism of possessing as well. Unlike many others, Luxemburg pointed to the racist, colonialist background to this debate. The ‘issue of colonial conquest’ was often separated from the ‘question of nationality’. This standpoint is often actually one adopted, consciously or otherwise, by the defenders of the “right of nations”. It corresponds to the position that people such as Eduard David (among German social democrats) and van Kol (among his Dutch counterparts) take regarding the issue of colonial policy. This position considers colonial conquest to ultimately be an expression of the civilizing mission of the European people, one which would remain necessary even under socialism. This position can be summed up as a ‘European’ application of Fichte’s philosophical principle as seen

56

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

in Ludwig Börne’s famous reformulation: “I am I, and everything else is merely food.” If only the people of Europe are able to consider themselves as belonging to nations, while those colonized are seen as “food”, then we can speak of “nation states” in Europe […]. Should this be true, however, then the ‘right of nations to self-determination’ becomes a theory of racial supremacy and betrays its true origins as being the ideology of bourgeois liberalism […]. (Luxemburg 2012, 68)

Luxemburg took a critical view of the notion that being a social democrat meant that one had to follow majority opinion on the nationality question. The ‘traditional forms of consciousness’ of the majority were ‘mostly bourgeois forms of consciousness hostile to the ideals and aspirations of socialism’ (Luxemburg 2012, 75) and had to be revolutionised. Luxemburg developed comprehensive frameworks for territorial selfmanagement applicable to the Russian Empire that would safeguard the rights of the various nationalities that lived within its domain. This plan was particularly detailed with respect to public services, education, culture and local infrastructure. Due to the fact that many regions of the Russian Empire were populated with a wide range of nationalities, she reasoned that self-management could generally not occur on the basis of nationality, with one exception: the Kingdom of Poland. Only Poland met the preconditions for national autonomy—only here did the population exhibit ‘the development of its own bourgeoisie, […] its own urban way of life, its own intelligentsia, its own literary and academic life’ (Luxemburg 2012, 168). According to her, no other relatively unified territory within the Russian Empire possessed similar attributes.6

Bibliography Baier, Walter. 2011. Von Nationen und “Natiönchen”, historischen und “geschichtslosen” Völkern - Rosa Luxemburg, W. I. Lenin und Otto Bauer. In Zwischen Klassenstaat und Selbstbefreiung. Zum Staatsverständnis von Rosa Luxemburg, ed. Michael Brie and Frigga Haug, 145–169. Staatsverständnisse Band 43. Baden-Baden: Nomos. Cliff, Tony. 1959. Rosa Luxemburg. Harlow: International Socialism.

6 In his critique, Lenin argued that this was attributable to these territories having been forcibly assimilated into the Russian Empire and would naturally change following a revolution (Lenin 1972, 48).

3

THE ‘FULLY FLEDGED MARXIST’ AND THE POLISH QUESTION

57

Engels, Frederick. 1977. Democratic Pan-Slavism (1849). In MECW, vol. 8, 362– 378. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Engels, Frederick. 1990. Preface to the Polish Edition of the Manifesto of the Communist Party. In MECW, vol. 27 , 273–274. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Haug, Frigga. 2013. Was bringt es, Herrschaft als Knoten zu denken? In Am Herrschaftsknoten ansetzen. Symposium zum 75. Geburtstag von Frigga Haug, ed. Michael Brie, 8–13. RLS Paper. Berlin: Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung. Haug, Wolfgang Fritz. 2015. Marxistsein/Marxistinsein. In Historisch-kritisches Wörterbuch des Marxismus, Bd. 8/II , ed. Wolfgang Fritz Haug, Frigga Haug, Peter Jehle, and Wolfgang Küttler, 1965–2026. Hamburg: Argument. Haupt, Georges. 1974. Dynamik und Konservatismus der Ideologie. Rosa Luxemburg und der Beginn marxistischer Untersuchungen zur nationalen Frage. In Rosa Luxemburg: oder die Bestimmung des Sozialismus, ed. Claudio Pozzoli, 219–270. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Laschitza, Annelies. 2014. Vorwort. In Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 6, Rosa Luxemburg, 19–66. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Lenin, V.I. 1972. Critical Remarks on the National Question [1913]. In Volume 20, ed. Collected Works, 17–51. Moscow: Progress Publishers. Lenin, Vladimir I. 1977a. The three sources and three components of Marxism [1913]. In Collected Works, vol. 19, 23–28. Moscow: Progress Publishers. Lenin, Vladimir I. 1977b. The National Question in Our Programme (1903). In Collected Works, Volume 6, 452–461. Moscow: Progress Publishers. Lenin, Vladimir I. 1977c. The Right of Nations to Self-Determination (1914). In Collected Works, Volume 20, 393–454. Moscow: Progress Publishers. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1968. Listy do Leona Jogichesa-Tyszki. Listy zebral, slowem wstepnym i przypisami opatrzyl Feliks Tych. Warszawa: Ksiazka i Wiedza. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1972a. Friedensutopien (1910). In Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 2, 491–504. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1972b. Was wollen wir? Kommentar zum Programm der Sozialdemokratie des Königreichs Polen und Litauens (1906). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 2, 37–89. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979a. Der Sozialismus in Polen (1897). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.1, 82–93. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979b. Bericht an den III. Internationalen Arbeiterkongress in Zürich über den Stand und Verlauf der sozialdemokratischen Bewegung in Russisch-Polen 1889-1893. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.1, 5–13. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979c. Neue Strömungen in der polnischen sozialistischen Bewegung in Deutschland und Österreich. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.1, 14–36. Berlin: Karl Dietz.

58

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979d. Der Sozial-Patriotismus in Polen (1896). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.1, 37–51. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2011a. Das unabhängige Polen und die Arbeiterfrage. Aus dem Polnischen übersetzt und eingeleitet von Holger Politt. Rosa-LuxemburgForschungsberichte 8: 33–87. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2011b. Im Lichte der Revolution. Zwei Texte aus dem Jahre 1906: »Zur Konstituante und zur Provisorischen Regierung« und »Vor dem Wendepunkt«, in: Rosa-Luxemburg-Forschungsberichte, Heft 12, Leipzig 2015, S. 7–58. Rosa-Luxemburg-Forschungsberichte 12: 7–58. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2012. Nationalitätenfrage und Autonomie. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2013a. Wegmarkierungen. Zwei Texte Rosa Luxemburgs aus dem Jahre 1903. Aus dem Polnischen übersetzt und eingeleitet von Holger Politt. Rosa-Luxemburg-Forschungsberichte 10. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2013b. The Industrial Development of Poland. In The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg, vol. I: Economic Writings 1, 1–78. London: Verso. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2014a. Nach dem Pogrom. Texte über Antisemitismus 1910/1911. Hrsg. und aus dem Polnischen übersetzt von Holger Politt. Potsdam: Welttrends. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2014b. Polnische Sozialdemokratie und Nationalität (Erwiderung) (1895). In Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 2, 74–78. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2014c. Internationaler Sozialistenkongress vom 23. bis 27. September 1900 in Paris. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 6, 302–307. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2015a. Arbeiterrevolution 1905/06. Polnische Texte. Herausgegeben von Holger Politt. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2015b. Die polnische Gesellschaft im Angesicht des Krieges. In Arbeiterrevolution 1905/06. Polnische Texte. Herausgegeben von Holger Politt, 42–45. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa, and Leo Jogiches. 2015. Die politischen Aufgaben der polnischen Arbeiterklasse (1893). In “Ich lebe am fröhlichsten im Sturm” (Rosa Luxemburg). 25 Jahre Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung: Gesellschaftsanalyse und politische Bildung, ed. Dagmar Enkelmann and Florian Weis, 20–25. Berlin: Rosa-Luxembug-Stiftung. Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. 1976. Manifesto of the Communist Party [1848]. In MECW, vol. 6, 477–519. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Nettl, Peter J. 1966a. Rosa Luxemburg: In Two Volumes, vol. 1. London: Oxford University Press. Nettl, Peter J. 1966b. Rosa Luxemburg: In Two Volumes, vol. 2. London: Oxford University Press. Pilawski, Krzysztof, and Holger Politt. 2020. Rosa Luxemburg. Spurensuche: Dokumente und Zeugnisse einer jüdischen Familie. Hamburg: VSA.

3

THE ‘FULLY FLEDGED MARXIST’ AND THE POLISH QUESTION

59

Piper, Ernst. 2018. Rosa Luxemburg. Ein Leben. München: Karl Blessing Verlag. Plekhanov, Georgi. 1974. Our Differences. In Selected Philosophical Works, Vol. 1, 107–352. Moscow: Progress Publishers. Politt, Holger. 2012. Rosa Luxemburgs “Krakauer Horizont.” In Nationalitätenfrage und Autonomie, Rosa Luxemburg, 9–33. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Politt, Holger. 2015. Unter Blitz und Donner: Zusammenstoß zweier Zeitalter. In Arbeiterrevolution 1905/06. Polnische Texte. Herausgegeben von Holger Politt, Rosa Luxemburg, 9–34. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Politt, Holger. 2018. In Zamo´sc´ wurde die an Rosa Luxemburg erinnernde Gedenktafel entfernt. Seidemann, Maria. 1998. Rosa Luxemburg und Leo Jogiches. Die Liebe in den Zeiten der Revolution. Berlin: Rowohlt, Berlin. Stadler-Labhart, Verena. 1978. Rosa Luxemburg an der Universität Zürich 1889– 1897 . Zürich: Hans Rohr Verlag.

CHAPTER 4

Revolutionary Realpolitik

Social Democracy has many demands in its programme which […] could also be adopted by a bourgeois government. […] Yet in this case it is apparent […] that the Social Democratic struggle above all is not about the what, but the how. (Luxemburg 1979a, 485)

Rosa Luxemburg stepped foot in Berlin on 16 May 1898. Here, in the capital of the German Empire following her dissertation, she wanted to expose herself to a new field of activity in Europe’s strongest and most influential Social Democratic Party. Her publications in the German party press on the Polish question and her appearances at congresses of the Second International had already given her some notoriety. Additionally, in Germany, the Polish question was a question of domestic relevance. Only shortly after her arrival, Luxemburg threw herself into the election campaign in Oberschlesien with the approval of the SPD leadership. However, her suggestion that she be deployed as a speaker in the runoff elections in other regions was rejected (cf. Laschitza 2002, 89). Her purview appeared defined—labour among Polish workers in the German Empire. The discussion on the programme and strategy of Social Democracy set off by Eduard Bernstein in the spring of 1898 offered her the chance to foray into the centre of social democratic politics in Germany. With her intervention in this discussion, the 27-year-old took to the main © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 M. Brie and J. Schütrumpf, Rosa Luxemburg, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67486-1_4

61

62

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

stage of German Social Democracy. Systematically prepared, she wrote an initial series of articles for the Leipziger Volkszeitung in only two days (Luxemburg 1982a, 204). Already in October 1898, she participated in the party conference in Stuttgart, one of six female delegates of the 252 in attendance and one of six present with an academic degree (cf. Hirsch 1969, 37). Bernstein’s revision of Marxism radically called into question Social Democracy’s very understanding of strategy, an understanding which Luxemburg and her Polish comrades had developed in the previous decade. This explains the vehemence with which Luxemburg intervened in the German discussion. For her, at stake was what she understood revolutionary social democracy to be. It is no coincidence that Alexander Parvus (Israil Lasarewitsch Helphand, 1867–1924) counted along with Luxemburg among the staunchest opponents of Bernstein. He shared with her the experiences of a very close connection between struggle around everyday interests and revolutionary activity in the Tsarist empire. Leading the attack on Bernstein in the SPD were these two Eastern European outsiders.

New Questions for Old Answers Eduard Bernstein (1850–1932) joined the Social Democratic Workers Party of August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht (the ‘Eisenachers’) in 1872. With them, he had collaborated on organising the conference at which the party unified with the General German Workers’ Association, the Lassallists in 1875. When the Anti-Socialist Laws were enacted in 1878, he was forced to emigrate, first to Switzerland and subsequently, after being expelled from there, to England. At the time, he was an editor of the Sozialdemokrat. Over many years, the newspaper was smuggled into Germany, where it found a wide circulation. Along with Karl Kautsky, Bernstein played a decisive role in drafting the SPD’s Erfurt Programme, shaping the basic features of the so-called minimal programme, or the concrete demands for reform. In England, Bernstein maintained a very close relationship with Friedrich Engels, who esteemed him highly and appointed him to be the executor of his wills. Bernstein thus belonged to the innermost circle of the party and along with Kautsky was one of its guiding intellectuals. He was considered an eminent authority regarding questions of scientific socialism among European Social Democrats.

4

REVOLUTIONARY REALPOLITIK

63

Immediately following the death of Engels, Bernstein began to voice his doubts about essential programmatic fundaments of social democratic strategy. In 1896–1897, a series of articles by Bernstein appeared under the title Problems of Socialism in which he pointed out that, in addition to the utopianism of ‘future-state modelling’, another utopianism existed. According to this utopianism, socialism would cure all ills, and ‘within a very short time’ at that: A heavy line is drawn between capitalist society on the one side and socialist society on the other. No attempt is made at systematic work in the former. Here, we live from hand to mouth and allow ourselves to be carried along by events. Any theoretical difficulties can be overcome by reference to economic development and to a very one-sided notion of the class struggle. (Bernstein 1988a, 74f.)

What initially appeared in the many articles written by Bernstein that year for the Neue Zeit as an open reflection on unsolved programmatic problems, on ‘biases’ and ‘theoretical difficulties’, quickly became a direct calling into question of the strategy of the SPD which was officially formulated at the Erfurt party conference yet which traced back to the early 1870s and was supported by Marx and Engels. In January 1898, Bernstein’s article The Struggle of Social Democracy and the Social Revolution appeared. Blatantly crossing the line between doubt and calling for a change in party strategy, it unleashed a scandal: I frankly admit that I have extraordinarily little feeling for, or in-terest in, what is usually termed ‘the final goal of socialism’. This goal, whatever it may be, is nothing to me, the movement is every- thing. And by movement I mean both the general movement of soci-ety, i.e. social progress, and the political and economic agitation and organisation to bring about this progress. According to this view, Social Democracy should neither expect nor desire the imminent collapse of the existing economic system, if this is to be envisaged as the product of a great and catastrophic trade crisis. What Social Democracy should be doing, and doing for a long time to come, is organise the working class politically, train it for democracy, and fight for any and all reforms in the state which are designed to raise the working class and make the state more de–mocratic. (Bernstein 1988b, 168f.)

64

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Bernstein’s interpretation of the historical situation and his strategic conclusions stood in direct contradiction to the assumptions which until that point had undergirded SPD strategy. They suggested a completely new direction for the party which equated to domestic social reformism and international social imperialism. Ultimately, Bernstein had only verbalised what many social democratic parliamentarians and trade union leaders were thinking but did not dare to publicly admit. The leaders of the unions had never been seriously in favour of the idea of all-out opposition to capitalism, since they felt it endangered the existence of their fragile organisations, and therefore their own power. This was particularly the case in situations of crisis, as the Sozialistengesetze had shown. Even so, only very few dared to publicly back Bernstein. Without noticing, he had committed a grave sacrilege. The reactions of the ‘guardians of the temple’, led in particular by Karl Kautsky, the theoretical architect of the SPD, were correspondingly fierce. Up until the SPD party conference in 1903, the so-called revisionism debate raged, in which Rosa Luxemburg became a significant player, even though in terms of content she only summarised familiar Marxist positions. The contradictions within capitalism would intensify and lead humanity into barbarism. The task of the labour movement was to do everything to avoid this process. Socialism was to save humanity from its downfall, hence the phrase ‘socialism or barbarism’. The strategic consequences of Bernstein’s positions became clearer when he began to systematise his views on the suggestion of Bebel in order to remove what Bebel referred to as ‘obscurities and ambiguity’ (cited in Papcke 1979, 28). This made it obvious that Bernstein was not questioning some set of assumptions removed from praxis, but rather the praxis of the SPD itself: the party should abandon its character as a party of class struggle. The goal of taking political power—the achievement of which would be made possible by legal battles around election victories, social and democratic reforms and aggressive agitation—became secondary, while reforms became ends in themselves. Bernstein’s central thesis was that the influence of the SPD ‘would be much greater than it is today, if Social Democracy could find the courage to emancipate itself from phraseology that is, in fact, obsolete and to make up its mind to appear what it is in reality today: a democratic socialist party of reform’ (Bernstein 1993, 186).

4

REVOLUTIONARY REALPOLITIK

65

The Strategy of the SPD from 1891 What Bernstein dubbed ‘phraseology’ were the core convictions of the founding fathers of the SPD, held by both August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht. After 1890, as the SPD could congregate again in Germany following the end of the Anti-Socialist Laws, it gave itself a foundation which, in the eyes of its recognised leaders, (1) was rooted in Marxism as a science, (2) corresponded to the real conditions of the German Empire and of contemporary capitalism and (3) was tried and true. Taking into account speeches of Liebknecht and Bebel at the Erfurt party conference, it becomes clear that the chosen strategy was by no means only tactically inspired (although of course it was this as well), but was also born of firm conviction. Following the failed revolution of 1848–1849 and the bloody suppression of the Paris Commune, it became apparent that the socialist labour movement needed to adjust itself to a situation in which armed revolution was becoming increasingly unlikely while legal forms of struggle were growing more realistic. Universal suffrage and the piecemeal legalisation of trade unions as well as social and cultural associations for workers offered new possibilities. Even during the Anti-Socialist Laws, the SPD had issued the slogan ‘Our enemies must perish by our legality’. The strategy pursued since the early 1870s by the SPD and its precursors formed a consistent unity of assumptions and conclusions, and its failure in 1914 overshadowed its earlier success. At the Erfurt party conference, this unity was justified once again by Liebknecht, who was speaking about the programme, and Bebel, who was addressing tactics. More clearly than in the party programme itself, the intentions of the SPD leadership were visible here. Liebknecht made explicit how much the new programme and the strategy anchored within it corresponded to that of Marx and Engels. For him, the development of the party since 1875 was above all also ‘the scientific development of the party, the education for scientific socialism’ (SPD 1891, 329), i.e. Marxism. The common thread of the programme was held to be the idea ‘that the few who own the means of production have in these the means of the enslavement, exploitation and proletarianisation of their fellow humans who do not possess these’ (SPD 1891, 333). Fully in the spirit of both Marx’s Capital and its theory of accumulation as well as of Engels’s writings, Liebknecht emphasised that ‘[t]he split in society becomes constantly

66

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

deeper and more complete—what stands between both extremes of capitalist and proletarian, the so-called middle classes […] disappear more and more’. With natural necessity, ‘expropriation in permanence’ (SPD 1891, 337) was underway. Polarisation between ever fewer owners of capital and the propertyless proletarians, as well as capitalism’s growing proneness to internal proneness and tendency to world war, would, according to the assumption of the SPD leaders, bring about a situation that was referred to in turn as a collapse of the capitalist system, a catastrophe or—by Bebel—as a ‘bustup’ [Kladderadatsch]. The strategy was precisely calibrated to this: the goal was to use legal means (above all, Bebel spoke of agitation, elections and trade union struggle) to build a socially rooted political force which would be capable of intervening in the moment of a major crisis of this sort with full decisiveness and political conviction. As Bebel elaborated at the party conference in 1891: Bourgeois society is working away so mightily at its own downfall so that we only need to wait for the moment at which we take up the power which has fallen from its hands…Yes, I am convinced the realisation of our ultimate goal is so close that there are few in this hall who will not experience these days. […] -The development of the economic conditions, the resumed armament, where everyone must say, if war doesn’t come today or tomorrow, then it will certainly come the day after tomorrow, and the certainty that all these things which break out with the rotting of contemporary society, this has all brought about that no one denies any longer that we’re driving towards a disaster. (SPD 1891, 172, 175)

The task remained ever still, according to Bebel, ‘to make the party fighting-ready, in order to more rapidly and thoroughly realise the great entirety of the goal’ (SPD 1891, 278). As Bebel warned his comrades, when the decisive hour came, one had to be prepared: ‘Take heed, one day you’ll be in the same situation as the foolish virgins in the Bible whose lamps have run out of oil when the groom comes. In other words: you seem to have such little grasp the real situation that you’ll be surprised by events and not know what to do. It’s not the first time that this was the case of the leadership during major reorganisations’ (SPD 1891, 281). The centrality of the struggle for political power was justified with the idea that truly socialist as opposed to capitalist property relations could not originate from within the womb of the old society, but rather would need to be consciously created through politics. Whereas the bourgeoisie

4

REVOLUTIONARY REALPOLITIK

67

first won economic and then political power, the labour movement would have to invert this order to achieve its goal of socialism: ‘We aren’t in a position to enact the reign of the working class by winning economic power, we need to take up inverted means. First, we have to take political power and use this to achieve economic power as well through the expropriation of bourgeois society. If political power is in our hands, the rest will follow’ (SPD 1891, 159).

Bernstein’s Total Revision of Marxism Gradually, Bernstein had called into question all assumptions which formed the basis of the Erfurt Program and the ‘tried and true tactics’ of two decades.1 First, he tried to demonstrate that there were strong countermovements to the concentration of capital, and that it by no means was the case that all means of production would become increasingly centralised in the hands of fewer capitalists. Stock corporations especially would promote the spreading of assets, making it ‘unnecessary for individual magnates to appropriate capital for the purpose of concentrating business enterprises’ (Bernstein 1993, 55). Moreover, it was also no longer valid to believe that the petty bourgeoisie, peasants and the middle classes would simply disappear and the class structure polarises: ‘Far from social differentiation being simplified compared with earlier times, it has become to a high degree gradated and differentiated both in respect of incomes and work’ (Bernstein 1993, 62). Yet above all, Bernstein saw a clear tendency towards democratisation even in the economy: Politically, in all the developed countries, we are seeing the privileges of the capitalist bourgeoisie gradually giving way to democratic institutions. Under the influence of these institutions and driven by the growing vitality of the labour movement, a social reaction has set in against the exploitative tendencies of capital. It is as yet timid and tentative, but it is there, and more and more sectors of economic life are coming under its influence. (Bernstein 1993, 2)

1 There is not enough room here to give Bernstein’s position the discussion it deserves.

His enduring contribution lies in his uncovering of the weaknesses of the Marxism of his time and in his confronting of important assumptions with opposed tendencies. Like Luxemburg, he was stuck within the contradictions of his time and of the socialist movement (cf. Eichhorn 2001) and sought a way out of their impasse (see the recent analysis Heimann et al. 2020). While Luxemburg opted for revolution, Bernstein opted for reform.

68

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Based on this view, Bernstein questioned whether there could in fact be more major crises which would bring capitalism to the edge of collapse: Nowadays the range of industries and their markets seems too wide to be affected by crises simultaneously at all points and with equal severity, unless quite extraordinary events were to throw the business world in all countries into an equal panic and cause credit to dry up everywhere. I do not say that this is so. I only offer a conjecture. Vestigia terrent. I have an unholy awe of prophecy in these matters. But the elasticity of the modern credit system combined with enormous growth in capital wealth, the perfected mechanism of all branches of communication […] these are facts, and it is quite unthinkable that they should fail to have a significant influence on the relationship between productive activity and market conditions. […] This suggests a strong likelihood that, with the advance of eco-nomic development, we shall no longer normally be dealing with the old kind of trade crisis […]. (Bernstein 1988b, 166)

Bernstein dismissed the orientation of the SPD around the preparation of decisive revolutionary action in a politico-economic crisis. According to him, the SPD should no longer function as a ‘pike square’ in waiting, but rather as a force for reform. It must stop threatening a transformation of the political system and prove itself as a system-immanent force for promoting the processes relativising the supremacy of capital, processes which were in any case already underway. However, this idea was based on the assumption that the reformism to which the SPD should swear by would not simply achieve a few ‘mini-concessions [Konzessiönchen]’ (Bebel) but rather would set off a sort of system transformation. Bernstein’s strategic vision entailed the linking of an incremental socialisation of production through expanding trade union power, increasing the democratic state’s control over the economy and growing the influence of the labour movement on state policy. While Marx and Engels believed that workers could only become the economically dominant class by first taking state power, Bernstein viewed political power as derivative of the growing economic power of the working class: ‘democracy means that at any given time the working class should rule to the extent permitted by its intellectual maturity and the current stage of its economic development’ (Bernstein 1993, 4). What thus remains of socialism according to Bernstein is an ‘organised liberalism’ (Bernstein 1993, 150), i.e. the liberal democratic organisation of corporate groups.

4

REVOLUTIONARY REALPOLITIK

69

Neither may trade unions strive to organise production themselves, nor are cooperatives recognised as superior to private production. Questions of power and property, the heart of Marxism, fade completely into the background in Bernstein’s vision, which is why he could write: ‘As soon as a nation has reached a political state of affairs where the rights of the properties minority have ceased to be a serious impediment to social progress, where the negative tasks of political action take second place to the positive, the appeal to violent revolution becomes pointless. You can overthrow a government, a privileged minority, but not a people’ (Bernstein 1993, 205). Bernstein’s position skews in an openly reactionary direction where he engages with the so-called colonial question. Expanding markets and increasing ‘productivity’ become the central criteria of economic progress, while the interests of the labour movement are equated with this version of ‘progress’. Obliviousness with regard to the exploitative and oppressive sides of industrial capitalist society (Bernstein is said to have never seen the inside of a capitalist enterprise during his time in England) goes hand-in-hand with open advocacy of colonial subjugation in Africa and Asia—in ‘civilised’ forms, of course. He measures economic ‘culture’ by the number of people able to live in a particular territory (‘population capacity’), justifying from there nothing less than the duty (!) of conquest: ‘Measured against this standard and under otherwise equal conditions, the higher culture always has the higher right on its side in comparison to the lower culture, and if necessary has the historical right, indeed the duty, to submit to it’ (Bernstein 1900, 551). On the basis of such a right or duty, Bernstein then argues that social democracy is ‘the natural lawyer of the natives’ who ‘come under the sovereignty or patronage of its country’ (Bernstein 1900, 561). Bernstein posed central theoretical questions without being able to consistently answer them. His strengths lay in his scrutiny of the basic assumptions of the Marxism of the Second International. He showed that assumptions on the simplification and increasing polarisation of the class structure would not hold; that the tendencies of concentration and centralisation of capital encountered strong countervailing tendencies; that under the dominance of value realisation, processes were set in motion that could accentuate essential social and cultural needs and integrate workers. He called into question the notion that a crisis bringing about collapse was necessarily on the horizon while pointing out the

70

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

need to take seriously questions of the socialist shaping economic relations. According to him, the problems of the complexity of economic processes would not be solved merely by transferring property to the state or to cooperatives; furthermore, the economic potential of these forms had yet to be evaluated. In theories of capitalism and socialism, these are all questions that remain open today. By emphasising these aspects and marginalising opposing tendencies, Bernstein produced an image of an evolutionary-progressive capitalist society which socialistically supersedes itself in stages.

The Hammer Blow of the Revolution Some experts argue that no other book has warmed more people to the endeavour of Marx—to free society from exploitation, oppression and war forever—than Luxemburg’s early work Social Reform or Revolution?. Even today, it still provides a good overview of orthodox Marxism (i.e. the Marxism which had not yet been turned into a caricature by the late Kautsky and by Stalin and his followers), in an exciting and accessible manner. Karl Kautsky, who—besides Bernstein—was the other key authority on theoretical socialism, had tried since the 1880s to popularise and systematise the thinking of Karl Marx through a number of his writings. He called the end result ‘Marxism’: an amalgam of theses, arguments, historical constructs and ‘scientific explanations’. For each new question that arose, Kautsky—the party’s indefatigable expert on theoretical issues—came up with his own corresponding theory. Lenin, Trotsky and Luxemburg— who with ‘Social Reform or Revolution?’ emerged from obscurity to become the ‘second-most influential German Marxist of her time’—all learned from Kautsky’s teachings, as did thousands of now-forgotten fellow Marxists. Up until the outbreak of the revisionism debate, Kautsky was the undisputed leader of any kind of theoretical interpretation, a position that was cemented following the party conference resolving the debate in his favour. Through the resolution he proposed, the party’s executive opened a Pandora’s box: for the first time within a large political organisation besides the Catholic Church, questions of theory and ideology were being dragged from the realm of intellectual debate into that of politics and ‘decided’ there. This conflating of the intellectual and political spheres would later become commonplace in the communist movement.

4

REVOLUTIONARY REALPOLITIK

71

In any case, overcoming capitalism with all of its consequences remained the primary goal. This was despite the SPD executive no longer being all that revolutionary but rather driven by pragmatism. The SPD had, almost by accident, achieved something rather odd: in a Germany that was rising to the status of a world power—with its militarism, covert anti-Semitism, colonial obsession and costume fetishism—the party had created its own proletarian society, a counter-world with institutions and safety nets of its own. The ‘fourth estate’ as Theodor Fontane (Germany’s pre-eminent novelist of the pre-world war era) called it—labelled the proletariat or the working class by others, including Marx—had first been crushed in the wake of the Silesian Weavers’ Uprising in 1844. When the young Gerhart Hauptmann brought this scandal to the stage of Berlin’s Deutsches Theater half a century later, the Kaiser cancelled his box. In the Prussian Germany of the Wilhelmine era—a product of the failed 1848 Revolution and a victorious war against Austria in 1866, consolidated in Versailles in 1871 after the defeat of France—the proletarian was not worth a penny. It was the early labour movement in Germany that had first provided proletarians with a sense of self-confidence. This movement was influenced by Karl Marx, a Jew who had been driven into exile, and was led by the powerfully eloquent Ferdinand Lassalle, also a Jew. People of Jewish descent, even if they no longer religiously observant, played a significant role in the German proletarian movement prior to World War I. This was also true for the early KPD, even though it had already voluntarily become ‘judenfrei’ [free of Jews] in the years before the organisation was crushed in 1933 by the fascists. Both workers and the children of the assimilated Jewish bourgeoisie (such as Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky) were ostracised by capitalist-feudal German society, which brought them together and led to the formation of a new political force. In the established highly-educated bourgeois spheres, many assimilated Jews, among them Albert Einstein and Stefan Zweig, were very successful, whereas the zenith of Jewish influence in the business elites had long been surpassed by the turn of the century. In later years, unless they managed to flee Germany, they or their descendants all died in Auschwitz or other death camps. Mathilde Jacob, for example, Rosa Luxemburg’s often underestimated ‘right hand’, had already been transported to Theresienstadt by the time a cheque for her ransom had been made available in the USA.

72

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

The ‘revisionism debate’ had posed a severe problem for the seven members of the SPD executive committee,2 which neither Kautsky nor the young upstart politician Luxemburg were aware of. In the committee’s eyes, Eduard Bernstein was actually right. It seemed dangerous, however, to voluntarily give up the theory which they believed held their alternative world together. Within their segment of German society— with its multiple structures and unique socialist worldview—they regarded themselves as, and in some ways also were, the proverbial one-eyed men. The revisionism of Eduard Bernstein thus appeared to threaten their highly successful project, one which had led to a steady increase in trade union and party membership, was gaining more traction in the sporting clubs, cooperatives and among the Freethinkers and had won more seats in parliament with every election. Anything that appeared to endanger their inevitable progress had to be suppressed—including a deserving comrade like Bernstein, with whom their long-established alliance naturally continued outside of official protocol. The balance between the guardians of the organisation, on the one hand, and those of ideology, on the other, was always carefully maintained by the SPD leadership. As has been shown, Rosa Luxemburg developed a position in her engagement with the social democratic strategy in the Russian-occupied Kingdom of Poland which aimed to connect advocacy for the immediate, most pressing daily needs of workers (their social and democratic interests) with a revolutionary socialist perspective. This was for her the general essence of social democratic strategy, independent of specific conditions. Her position was absolutely clear: ‘the movement as an end in itself is nothing to me, the final goal is everything’ (Luxemburg 1971a, 43). For her, Marx’s achievement lay in his justification of the guideline of a ‘revolutionary Realpolitik’: Thanks to this guideline the working class has managed for the first time to transform the idea of socialism as the ultimate aim into daily politics‘ divisional coins and to elevate the everyday political detail work to the big 2 In 1903, the executive committee of the SPD was made up of seven members (later there were nine): August Bebel and Paul Singer as chairmen, Wilhelm Pfannkuch and Ignaz Auer as secretaries, and Karl Alwin Gerisch as treasurer, while the oversight panel, also selected by the party conference, nominated two further members, Wilhelm Eberhardt and Robert Wengels, to function as observers. In 1909, the committee was made up of the nine members August Bebel, Friedrich Ebert, Karl Alwin Gerisch, Hermann Molkenbuhr, Hermann M¨uller, Wilhelm Pfannkuch, Paul Singer, Robert Wengels and Luise Zietz.

4

REVOLUTIONARY REALPOLITIK

73

idea‘s executive tool. There was bourgeois politics led by workers and there was revolutionary socialism before Marx. But only since Marx and through Marx has a socialist working class-politics existed that is at the same time and in the fullest meaning of both words revolutionary Realpolitik. If we understand by Realpolitik a politics that only sets itself achievable goals that it pursues to obtain by the most effective means in the shortest time, then the difference between proletarian class-politics that stands in the Marxian spirit and bourgeois politics is that bourgeois politics is real from the standpoint of material daily politics, whereas socialist politics is real from the standpoint of the historical tendency of development. (Luxemburg 1978, 373)

Luxemburg’s argument for a revolutionary Realpolitik in the revisionism debate entailed a rejection of all of Bernstein’s central assumptions. For her, it was clear that theory and practice needed to form a unity: ‘Our tactics are […] absolutely not solely dependent on specific momentary conditions, but rather equally as much on our principles’ (Luxemburg 2014a, 186). Luxemburg was strictly against Bernstein: it was simply not the case that overarching tendencies were weakening the contradictions in capitalist society. Polarisation into two opposed classes—capitalists and proletarians—would continue to drive the disappearance of the middle classes. The bourgeois classes would respond to emerging class struggle by dismantling democracy. Only the threat of a social revolution would force them to submit to social reforms. If this threat was abandoned, no further successes on the trade union, democratic and social fronts of the social democratic struggle would be possible. She remained convinced that it was entirely impossible that the proletariat ‘could create economic power for itself within current bourgeois society’ (Luxemburg 1971b, 45). Neither cooperatives nor trade unions were capable of doing so. Cooperatives were inevitably subordinated to the duress of capitalist valorisation (cf. Luxemburg 1979b, 417f.), and trade unions could never be anything other than the ‘organized defense of labor power against the attacks of profit’ (Luxemburg 1970a, 71). Against Bernstein’s notion of a civilised imperialism and colonialism, she wrote: ‘If it is true that world politics [note: imperialism] and militarism represent a rising tendency in the present phase of capitalism, then bourgeois democracy must logically move in a descending line’ (Luxemburg 1970a, 75). Colonialism and imperial competition would contribute to this decline in democracy (Luxemburg 1979c, 19). Her conclusion: ‘In its struggle, the working class has no greater enemy than its own illusions’ (Luxemburg 1971b,

74

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

47). She stated that ‘only through seizing state power and never on the path of social reform within the confines of existing society’ ((Luxemburg 1971b, 49) could socialism be achieved. First, Luxemburg emphasised the intensified capitalist and authoritarian character of social relations; second, she assumed the result would be major crises which would bring capitalism to the brink of collapse; and third, she elaborated why the Social Democratic movement could not wait until all conditions were fully ‘ripe’ for revolution. First: While Bernstein and his allies in the SPD banked on a more or less continuous expansion of the social power of the labour movement and a growing subordination of the capitalist mode of production to social and democratic goals with the help of the existing state, Luxemburg diagnosed exactly the opposite tendencies. There was a growing contradiction between the real possibility of socialism and its realisation. It would be the bourgeois state which would stand in the way of resolving this contradiction. Thus, Luxemburg focused her whole strategy on the struggle for political power in the state as the essential obstacle on the path to socialist revolution: The theory of the gradual introduction of socialism proposes a progressive reform of capitalist property and the capitalist state in the direction of socialism. But in consequence of the objective laws of existing society, one and the other develop in a precisely opposite direction. The process of production is increasingly socialised, and state intervention, the control of the state over the process of production, is extended. But at the same time, private property becomes more and more the form of open capitalist exploitation of the labor of others, and state control is penetrated with the exclusive interests of the ruling class. The state, that is to say, the political organization of capitalism, and the property relations, that is to say, the juridical organization of capitalism, become more capitalist and not more socialist, opposing to the theory of the progressive introduction of socialism two insurmountable difficulties. […] The production relations of capitalist society approach more and more the production relations of socialist society. But on the other hand, its political and juridical relations established between capitalist society and socialist society a steadily rising wall. This wall is not overthrown, but is on the contrary strengthened and consolidated by the development of social reforms and the course of democracy. Only the hammer blow of revolution, that is to say, the conquest of political power by the proletariat , can break down this wall. (Luxemburg 1970a, 84f.)

4

REVOLUTIONARY REALPOLITIK

75

Second: Today, the so-called breakdown theory has widely been forgotten, although there may now be good reasons to revisit it. Bernstein’s belief in capitalism’s ability to evolve without major crises endangering the system was rendered absurd in 1914 at the latest. At the same time, he correctly pointed out the enormous adaptability of capitalist societies and the ability of the social and political powers within them to learn from experience. Luxemburg countered Bernstein’s evolutionism with the concept of strands of development in which there are ‘knots’. According to this concept, the contradictions of capitalist society must inevitably lead to catastrophes, but these ‘cataclysms’ are mediated by longer phases of stability (Luxemburg 1979d, 259). Additionally for Luxemburg, the question of an absolute limit to capitalist development was not a scholastic matter but rather one with direct political relevance and ‘the cornerstone of scientific socialism’ (Luxemburg 2004, 160). For her, catastrophes ‘do not present opposition to development, but are a moment, a phase of development’ (Luxemburg 1979d, 259). Whether capitalist growth was quasi-infinite or could at least continue into the distant future, or whether it would run up against insurmountable limits in a foreseeable timeframe, was a question with radical implications: [I]f one admits, with Bernstein, that capitalist development does not move in the direction of its own ruin, then socialist ceases to be objectively necessary. […] Revisionist theory stands before an Either/Or. Either the socialist transformation is, as was admitted up to now, the consequence of the internal contradictions, resulting inevitably, at some point, in its collapse. In this case, however, the ‚means of adaptation‘ are ineffective, and the breakdown theory is correct. Or, the ‚means of adaptation‘ are really capable of stopping the breakdown of the capitalist system and thereby enable capitalism to maintain itself by suppressing its own contradictions. In that case, socialism ceases to be a historical necessity. It then becomes anything you want to call it, except the result of the material development of society. (Luxemburg 2004, 133, 134)

Luxemburg’s later accumulation theory (see Chapter 8) was an attempt to find a new scientific answer to the question of capitalism’s absolute limit. In 1899, she related this question to capitalism’s tendency towards overproduction. Already at the time, the inability of capitalism to find a sufficient market for its own products was a central concern of hers. However, Luxemburg distinguished the question of a ‘final limit’

76

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

of capitalism from the concrete reasons for its immediate demise. For her, the latter was due to the successful class struggle of the proletariat. Yet without scientific proof of an absolute limit, a politics banking on capitalism’s natural death appeared unjustifiable (Luxemburg 1979e, 550f.). Third: The Marxists of the Second International always kept Marx’s thesis in mind: ‘No social formation is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed’ (Marx 1987, 263). They were also familiar with Engels’s position in The Peasant War in Germany: ‘The worst thing that can befall the leader of an extreme party is to be compelled to assume power at a time when the movement is not yet ripe for the domination of the class he represents and for the measures this domination implies’ (Engels 1978, 469). The tremendous development that capitalism had undergone since the Revolution of 1848 proved its power. Thus arose the question of whether it was necessary to wait until all objective and subjective conditions were completely ripe. Luxemburg objected to the notion of revolution as a more or less singular act. According to her, revolutionary conditions do not simply come about, but rather emerge to a large extent through action, growing out of class struggle. A reason for this is that, in the capitalist order, ‘all the elements of the future society first assume, in their development, a form not approaching socialism but, on the contrary, a form moving more and more away from socialism’ (Luxemburg 1971c, 118). Thus, the intensification of class struggle is a central requirement in developing the conditions for success in a long revolutionary process—a process which will unavoidably involve a series of defeats. The defeats are stages along the only possible path to the ultimate success, according to Luxemburg’s highly disquieting thesis: In the first place, it is impossible to imagine that a transformation as formidable as the passage from capitalist society to socialist society can be realized in one happy act. To consider that as possible is again to lend color to conceptions that are clearly Blanquist. The socialist transformation supposes a long and stubborn struggle, in the course of which, it is quite probable, the proletariat will be repulsed more than once, so that for the first time, from the viewpoint of the final outcome of the struggle, it will have necessarily come to power ‘too early’. In the second place, it will be impossible to avoid the ‘premature’ conquest of state power by the proletariat precisely because these ‘premature’ attacks of the proletariat constitute a factor, and indeed a very

4

REVOLUTIONARY REALPOLITIK

77

important factor, creating the political conditions of the final victory. In the course of the political crisis accompanying its seizure of power, in the course of the long and stubborn struggles, the proletariat will acquire the degree of political maturity permitting it to obtain in time a definitive victory of the revolution thus these ‘premature’ attacks of the proletariat against the state power are in themselves important historic factors helping to provoke and determine the point of the definite victory. Considered from this viewpoint, the idea of a ‘premature’ conquest of political power by the laboring class appears to be a political absurdity derived from a mechanical conception of the development of society, and positing for the victory of the class struggle a point fixed outside and independent of the class struggle. Since the proletariat is not in the position to seize political power in any other way than ‘prematurely’, since the proletariat is absolutely obliged to seize power once or several times ‘too early’ before it can maintain itself in power for good, the objection to the ‘premature’ conquest of power is at bottom nothing more than a general opposition to the aspiration of the proletariat to possess itself of state power. (Luxemburg 1971c, 122f.)

The Unity of Marxism and Socialism For Luxemburg, revolutionary Realpolitik was not a matter of whether this or that struggle for reforms was waged, or this or that revolutionary demand was issued, but rather of uniting ‘the ultimate revolutionary goal with practical everyday activity’ and ‘thereby involv[ing] broad masses of the people in the struggle’ (Luxemburg 1979f, 229). In other words, social reform and revolution should not exist adjacent to each other, but rather in an organic relationship with each other formed through concrete engagement in everyday practice. As she wrote: ‘Marxism contains two essential elements: the element of analysis, of critique, and the element of the active will of the working class as the revolutionary factor. And whoever only employs analysis, employs critique, does not champion Marxism but rather a pathetic, spoiled parody of this doctrine’ (Luxemburg 1972, 224). Luxemburg saw revolutionary Realpolitik not primarily as a question of what, i.e. as a question of this or that democratic demand, but rather as a question of how immediate practical activity and the final goal of taking political power were related (Luxemburg 1979f, 229; Luxemburg 2014b, 278; cf. Brangsch 2009). If this relationship was forgotten, the SPD would become a ‘bourgeois workers’ party’ (Luxemburg 1979g, 514).

78

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Relating the practical struggle to the final goal, according to Luxemburg at the time, was only popular in three ways: […] (1) Their demands are the most advanced, so that when they compete with the bourgeois parties at the polls, they bring to bear the pressure of the voting masses. (2) They constantly expose the government before the people and arouse public opinion. (3) Their agitation in and out of parliament attracts ever greater masses about them and they thus grow to become a power with which the government and the entire bourgeoisie must reckon. (Luxemburg 1970b, 102)

In principle, it would not be possible by reforms, as Rosa Luxemburg wrote ironically against Bernstein, ‘to change the sea of capitalist bitterness into a sea of socialist sweetness’ (Luxemburg [1899] 1971c: 84). In spite of the advance of social reforms and democracy, the wall separating capitalist and socialist society was constantly growing higher and more fortified. This wall was above all political: ‘It is not true that socialism will arise automatically from the daily struggle of the working class. Socialism will be the consequence of (1) the growing contradictions of capitalist economy and (2) the comprehension by the working class of the unavailability of the suppression of these contradictions through a social transformation’ (Luxemburg 1971c, 88). Near the end of her famous Reform or Revolution, Luxemburg wrote that from now on ‘socialism and Marxism, the proletarian struggle for emancipation and Social Democracy, are identical’ (Luxemburg 1971c, 131). The return to a pre-Marxist socialism she accused Bernstein of making was ‘a return to the puny worn-out slippers of the bourgeoisie’ (ibid.). Many years later still, she wrote in a letter: ‘Oh, I’m such a donkey, such a rhinoceros, such a Bernstein!’ (Luxemburg 1982b, 253). The identity between socialism and Marxism proclaimed with such decisiveness by Luxemburg would be increasingly challenged in the coming years— this would happen as soon as 1899 when the French socialist politician Alexandre Millerand joined a bourgeois government. The difficulties of implementing a convincing and effective revolutionary Realpolitik were increasing. More and more openly, beliefs that had been held as certainties were called into question.

4

REVOLUTIONARY REALPOLITIK

79

Bibliography Bernstein, Eduard. 1900. Der Socialismus und die Colonialfrage. Socialistische Monatshefte 6: 549–562. Bernstein, Eduard. 1988a. General Observations on Utopianism and Eclecticism. In Marxism and Social Democracy: The Revisionist Debate, 1896–1898, 73–81. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Bernstein, Eduard. 1988b. The Struggle of Social Democracy and the Social Revolution (1898). In Marxism and Social Democracy: The Revisionist Debate, 1896–1898, 149–173. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Bernstein, Eduard. 1993. The Preconditions of Socialism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Brangsch, Lutz. 2009. „Der Unterschied liegt nicht im Was, wohl aber im Wie“. Einstiegsprojekte als Problem von Zielen und Mitteln linker Bewegungen. In Radikale Realpolitik. Plädoyer für eine andere Politik, ed. Michael Brie, 39–51. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Eichhorn, Wolfgang. 2001. Über Eduard Bernstein und Rosa Luxemburg. In Rosa Luxemburg. Historische und aktuelle Dimensionen ihres theoretischen Werkes, ed. Klaus Kinner and Helmut Seidel, 297–304. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Engels, Frederick. 1978. The Peasant War in Germany (1850). In MECW, vol. 10, 397–482. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Heimann, Horst, Hendrik Küpper, and Klaus-Jürgen Scherer (eds.). 2020. Geistige Erneuerung links der Mitte. Der Demokratische Sozialismus Eduard Bernsteins. Marburg: Schüren Verlag. Hirsch, Helmut. 1969. Rosa Luxemburg. Reinbek: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag. Laschitza, Annelies. 2002. Im Lebensrausch, trotz alledem. Rosa Luxemburg. Eine Biographie. Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1970a. Reform or Revolution. In Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, ed. Mary-Alice Waters, 33–90. London: Pathfinder. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1970b. Socialist Crisis in France (1900/1901). In Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, ed. Mary-Alice Waters, 91–105. London: Pathfinder. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1971a. Speeches to the Stuttgart Congress (1898). In Selected Political Writings of Rosa Luxemburg, 38–43. London and New York: Monthly Review Press. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1971b. Speeches to the Hannover Congress (1899). In Selected Political Writings of Rosa Luxemburg, 44–51. London and New York: Monthly Review Press. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1971c. Social Reform or Revolution (1899). In Selected Political Writings of Rosa Luxemburg, 52–134. London and New York: Monthly Review Press.

80

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Luxemburg, Rosa. 1972. Rede über die Rolle der Bourgeoisie in der Revolution 1905/1906 in Russland auf dem Parteitag der Sozialdemokratischen Arbeiterpartei Russlands vom 13. Mai bis 1. Juni 1907 in London. In Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 2, 214–226. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1978. Karl Marx (1903). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.2, 369– 377. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979a. Eine taktische Frage (1899). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.1, 483–486. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979b. Sozialreform oder Revolution? (1899). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.1, 369–445. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979c. Die sozialistische Krise in Frankreich (1900/01). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.2, 5–73. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979d. Erörterungen über die Taktik (1898). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.1, 257–263. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979e. Kautskys Buch wider Bernstein (1898). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.1, 537–554. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979f. Possibilismus und Opportunismus (1898). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.1, 228–230. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979g. Die “bayrischen Verhältnisse” (1899). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.1, 512–515. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1982a. Brief an Leo Jogiches vom 24. September 1898. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 1, 204–207. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1982b. Brief an Luise und Karl Kautsky vom 7. April 1906. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 2, 252–254. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2004. Social Reform or Revolution. In The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, ed. Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, 128–167. New York: Monthly Review Press. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2014a. Erörterung über die Taktik. 12 Folgen (1998). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 6, 183–229. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2014b. Die Affäre Dreyfus und der Fall Millerand (1899). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 6, 277–281. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Marx, Karl. 1987. A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy: Part One (1859). In MECW, vol. 29, 257–417. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Papcke, Sven. 1979. Der Revisionismusstreit und die politische Theorie der Reform. Fragen und Vergleiche. Stuttgart, Berlin, Köln, Mainz: Kohlhammer. SPD. 1891. Protokoll über die Verhandlungen des Parteitages der Sozialdemokratischen Partei Deutschlands, abgehalten zu Erfurt. Berlin: Vorwärts.

CHAPTER 5

The Millerand Case—Socialist Participation in Government as a Test Case of Theory and Strategy

The Bone of Contention On 22 June 1899, the French socialist Alexandre-Étienne Millerand became a minister in the Waldeck-Rousseau government. As Jean Jaurès wrote, ‘Even if the occurrence [of a socialist participating in a bourgeois government – M.B.] would not repeat itself in the same way, it nonetheless carried incalculable implications’ (Jaurès 1901, 113). The immediate cause of the Waldeck-Rousseau government was an attempted coup d’etat by right-wing nationalists, who sought to take advantage of the heated atmosphere during the antisemitic Dreyfus Affair to topple the republic. An alliance between bourgeois-democratic and socialist forces in the form of a ‘government of salvation’ was formed to prevent this from happening. Although some socialists hoped this government would lead to far-reaching democratic and social reforms, others saw in the new ‘ministerialism’ a ‘dangerous deviation from socialism’. To them, Millerand was simply the ‘first practitioner of a new method’ (Vaillant 1901, 146) that had to be rejected. A socialist participating in government was controversial among leftists in many respects. First, there was the moral question: Was it admissible for a socialist and one of political heirs to the Paris Commune to serve

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 M. Brie and J. Schütrumpf, Rosa Luxemburg, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67486-1_5

81

82

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

in a government alongside General Gaston de Galliffet, a leading participant in the brutal suppression of the Commune?1 Second, there was a strategic consideration: Would the government introduce a kind of transitional phase to socialism, overcoming capitalism step by step, or was this government ultimately only a form of capitalism entrenching itself? Third, there was a tactical issue: Would the left be strengthened or weakened by participating in this government? Fourth, there was the concern of Realpolitik: Would more social and political reforms be achievable by participating in the government or opposing it from the outside? Fifth, there was a theoretical problem: the Marxism of the Second International offered no scientific basis for left-wing politics in a situation characterised by the relative long-term stability of capitalism, the growing threat of world war and the barbarism of colonialism, imperialism, nationalism, racism and antisemitism. The socialist Millerand would only participate briefly in the government, which ended in 1902. Galliffet himself did not even last a year in his post as Minister of War. Half-hearted reforms that quickly stalled out, a tough approach towards workers, the blackmailing of socialists, allegations that far-reaching economic interventions were impossible and would benefit the right—all this was part of the experience. Following his expulsion from the Socialist Party in 1904, Millerand himself underwent a conservative turn. Later, he would occupy a number of top positions in the French Republic, eventually serving as Minister of War, Prime Minister and President. Only a few days after Millerand joined the French government on 6 July 1899, Rosa Luxemburg wrote in the Leipziger Volkszeitung of the challenges this action by a socialist posed to the entire socialist movement. For her, this could be understood in three ways: ‘Millerand’s entry into the cabinet of Waldeck-Rousseau presents socialists in both France

1 Around 30,000 executions occurred within one week of the defeat of the Paris Commune in May 1871—significantly more than approximately 17,000 brought to the guillotine during the entire ‘Reign of Terror’ of the Jacobins, and approximately half to two-thirds of all those victims of the ‘Reign of Terror’ during the thirteen-month period of Jacobin dictatorship, civil war and wars of intervention in 1793–1794. As the socialist Valliant wrote in a telegraph to Millerand, ‘If there is a name that must not appear [in the government – M.B.], because it embodies to us all crimes and reaction of Versailles, it is the name Galliffet […]. It would mean giving the executioner, the most bitter enemy of the working class and of socialism the portfolio of war – of the war against us’ (quoted in Jaurès 1901, 111).

5

THE MILLERAND CASE—SOCIALIST PARTICIPATION …

83

and other countries with an opportunity to consider tactics and principles. The active participation of socialists in a bourgeois government is certainly an occurrence that lies outside of the usual forms of socialist activity. Do we have here before us a form of serving the cause of the proletariat that is similar, for example, to activity in parliament or in the local council? Or on the contrary, is this a break with the principles and tactics of socialism? Or does the participation of socialists in a bourgeois government ultimately represent an exceptional case that is admissible and necessary under certain circumstances, but reprehensible and damaging under others?’ (Luxemburg 1979a, 483). Here, it already becomes clear that Luxemburg’s main concern in the debate was the following question: What would the consequences of Millerand’s decision be for the political practice of the left? For this reason, she referred to contemporaneous Marxist conceptions of the state only insofar as they seemed relevant to increasing the power of social democratic forces—that is, to doing socialist politics under the highly complicated conditions of her time. During the International Socialist Congress held in Paris from 23 to 7 September 1900, a majority of members approved a resolution by Karl Kautsky, the most influential theorist of orthodox Marxism at the time. This resolution established that the question of whether socialist forces should participate in a bourgeois government would be decided on a case-by-case basis. However, it also formulated a principle objection: participation in government could never constitute ‘the normal start of taking power’; rather, it should only come about as the result of a ‘predicament’2 —a notion that alluded to the above-mentioned threat that bourgeois democracy in France faced from a right-wing coup. 2 The resolution on ‘seizing state power and the alliances with bourgeois parties’ reached at the International Socialist Congress held in Paris from 23 to 7 September 1900 read as follows: ‘In a modern political democracy, the proletariat cannot seize political power by means of a mere surprise attack. Rather, political power can only be the conclusion of the long, difficult work of organising the proletariat politically and economically, of its physical and moral regeneration and the gradual conquest of seats in municipal councils and legislative bodies. Yet where government power is centralised, it cannot be seized gradually. The entry of a single socialist into a bourgeois ministry should not be understood as the normal start of seizing political power. Rather, it must always remain a temporary and exceptional stop-gap measure in an emergency situation. Whether such an emergency situation is present in a given instance is a question of tactics and not of principle, and should not be decided by congress. But in any event, this dangerous experiment can only be advantageous if approved by a unified party organisation, and if the socialist minister is and remains the mandatary of his party’ (Zweite Internationale 1975, 17).

84

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

In other words, the resolution rejected participation in government in principle, but established its permissibility on an (exceptional-)case by (exceptional-)case basis. Yet what would happen if exception became normality, and participation in government the immediate goal of socialist politics? Which consequences would this have for the left’s politics and its understanding of the state? These were the questions that Luxemburg viewed as central.

The Gap Between Marxist Theory and Socialist Practice At the end of the nineteenth century, the Marxist wing of the socialist movement faced a fundamental problem. On the one hand, it believed that Marx’s Capital irrefutably demonstrated that socialism or communism as ‘a community of free individuals’ (Marx 1996, 89) would necessarily follow capitalism. The distribution of labour ‘in accordance with a definite social plan’ (ibid.) and ‘the possession in common of the land and of the means of production’ (Marx 1996, 751) would characterise this new society. Yet on the other hand, after 1848, the capitalist mode of production not only expanded to ever more countries and regions, it also stabilised. A series of social reforms had been carried out that partially blunted the most damaging effects of capitalism, giving rise to doubt about the fundamental assumption of Marxism at the time: ‘The proletarianisation of the mass of people, the concentration of the entirety of capital in the hands of a few who dominate the entirety of economic life in the capitalist nations, the crises of the insecurity of existence – the continuous increase of all these cruel and outrageous effects of the capitalist mode of production can be curbed by no reforms based on the current property regime, no matter how far reaching these reforms may be’ (Kautsky 1965, 115). The Paris Commune of 1871 had remained a brief episode of revolutionary upheaval. Although the socialist movement in Western Europe had experienced an impressive, apparently unstoppable ascent, the forecasted break with capitalism never arrived. The power of socialism as a movement within capitalism grew, yet the goal itself, the overcoming of capitalism, seemed to recede ever further into the distance. As socialism in the tradition of Marx was supposed to be scientifically justified, the apparent divergence between scientifically formulated theses and politics was an existential threat to the self-conception of the social democracy

5

THE MILLERAND CASE—SOCIALIST PARTICIPATION …

85

of the Second International, for the latter understood itself to be in the Marxist tradition. The theory lost its function as a guide to action, and at the same time—or so it seemed—this theory could not be modified without losing its radicality. This had become apparent in the dispute on revisionism years before. As hesitant and half-hearted as the state reforms in the last third of the nineteenth century may have been, they did lead to considerable change. Above all, they set in motion a dynamic that many social reformers and increasingly also social democrats believed would lead to the overcoming of the basic tendencies of unfettered capitalism. At any rate, this period saw the conceptualisation of many far-reaching and radical social reforms, and even though these measures were motivated not least by the rulers’ desire to preclude a revolution from below through reform and to curb the ascendance of the labour movement through integrating workers into a regulated capitalism, the modifications of capitalism that they caused were becoming increasingly apparent. Meanwhile, it was also becoming increasingly unclear whether there were limits to these reforms in principle. This question was met with three strategic answers: (1) Friedrich Engels along with German Social Democracy under August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht—which had survived Bismarck’s Anti-Socialist Laws only to become stronger—turned towards a politics of gaining more and more votes while expanding its electoral base far into the middle classes, of socialist organisation-building and of educating the working masses while abstaining from all illegal revolutionary action. This position won out at the 1900 International Socialist Congress in Paris. The objective conditions for taking power (extensive democratisation accompanied by social and cultural reforms) needed to be strengthened. By demonstrating to workers that their basic needs ultimately could not be met by reforms within the bourgeois order, their militancy was to be fostered. This was supposed to create the subjective conditions for a revolution. (2) A strong wing of social democracy and above all of the trade unions endeavoured to achieve immediate successes in the struggles for improved working and living conditions, higher wages, social reforms and political democratisation. This wing also assumed that this path would lead to the gradual overcoming of capitalism without considering that there might be absolute systemic limits standing in the way of such an evolution. On the German left, the theoretical foundations for this position were

86

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

laid by Eduard Bernstein. (3) Anarcho-syndicalists and revolutionary leftists searched for a third way based on the self-organisation of workers (above all through general strikes and takeovers of firms). They hoped that revolutionary situations would emerge in the process that would lead to the overthrow of the capitalist order. As such, their focus was neither on the ‘natural process’ of the continuous growth of a Social Democratic movement until the day it would seize power, nor was it on taking advantages of given opportunities for what were sometimes very small forms of progress. Rather, they were primarily concerned with practical, energetic intervention through mass political action. Precisely in such intervention is where proletarian subjectivity would emerge as the strength of the masses, a strength that would enable capitalism to be overcome. Self-activity was seen as the necessary condition for organising for and successfully carrying out the overthrow of capitalism. Until 1918, social democrats in Germany were excluded from participating in government by the political system of Wilhelminian monarchism, an alliance between the nobility, military and haute bourgeoisie. In France, the situation was different. Whereas in Germany it was the trade unions above all that were ‘tempted’ into collaborating on reforms, in France there was the ‘temptation’ of direct participation in political power. Alexandre-Étienne Millerand was the first to submit to this temptation. From the standpoint of an orthodox Marxist theory of the state, this was a scandal on the level of theory itself—a representative of workers in the centre of the capitalist class’s organ of political power. Could this be anything other than class betrayal? Just as the discovery of the discontinuous radiation of energy by Max Planck had formed the origin of a revolution in classical physics, so too did the labour movement’s apparent integration into a modern society dominated by capital produce fundamental theoretical upheavals within Marxism. As the nineteenth century gave way to the twentieth, ‘the Marxist doctrines about concentration and catastrophe, revolution, dictatorship of the proletariat and the establishment of a collectivist natural economy from above’ turned ‘from dogmas to problems’ (David 1900, 704). Luxemburg’s own contribution to the analysis of Millerand’s participation in government came at the very beginning of this upheaval. Reaching the limits of the Marxist theory of the political and attempting to move beyond them, the decisive question for her was how an autonomous socialist politics could be scientifically founded under the new conditions of her time. Her viewpoint was determined not by

5

THE MILLERAND CASE—SOCIALIST PARTICIPATION …

87

scientific deliberations, but rather by political goals. In what follows, Luxemburg’s process of searching will be retraced. In this, we will largely limit ourself to the period of time from 1899 to 1902, during which Marxists were occupied with the ‘Millerand case’.

Rosa Luxemburg’s Formulation of the Problem Although Rosa Luxemburg’s first article addressing the ‘Millerand case’ bore the title ‘A Tactical Question’, it aimed ‘to derive a general guideline from our principles’ (Luxemburg 1979a, 486). It established that in instances ‘where the freedom of the country or democratic victories such as the republic were at stake’ (ibid.)—when the bourgeoisie was no longer itself able to protect the republic—socialists must consider participating in government. However, such participation must only be a temporary measure with a limited purpose. The participation of socialist forces in government had to remain a tactical exception. This argument was based directly on Luxemburg’s understanding of the state, which also formed the basis of her revolutionary position. In her article A Tactical Question, Luxemburg contrasted two principally divergent positions with each other. She distanced herself from the viewpoint ‘of the opportunistic conception of socialism’ (Luxemburg 1979a, 483) as represented primarily by Bernstein. Assuming a ‘piecemeal implementation of socialism in bourgeois society’ (ibid.), the advocates of this position took for granted that it would be possible to gradually undertake a socialist overhaul of the economic structures of capitalism. By their logic, Luxemburg argued, ‘the capitalist state gradually transforms itself into a socialist one’ (ibid.). Furthermore, ‘a progressive absorption of socialists into the bourgeois government would even be a natural result of the democratic development of bourgeois states’ (Luxemburg 1979a, 483f.). However, Luxemburg argued that participation in government by socialists fundamentally contradicts the socialist character of their politics, as representatives of the government become responsible for ‘actively supporting the bourgeois state in its entirety’ (Luxemburg 1979a, 485). She believed that ‘in the absolute best case’, reformist policies coming from the government would constitute mere ‘bourgeois democracy or bourgeois labour politics’ (Luxemburg 1979a, 485). Elsewhere, Luxemburg claimed ‘that a politics that should be rejected in principle will never be able to appear as tactically appropriate’ (Luxemburg 1979b, 81).

88

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

For her own part, Luxemburg assumed (as did all Marxists of the Second International) ‘that the implementation of socialism can only be seized upon after the collapse of the capitalist order’ (Luxemburg 1979a, 484). The necessary and correct struggle for reforms within capitalism, for ‘bourgeois reforms’ (Luxemburg 1979a, 485), is not socialist in itself, but rather a struggle that must be ‘endowed with a principally socialist character, the character of proletarian class struggle’ (Luxemburg 1979a, 484). However, from within a bourgeois government, it is impossible to wage ‘class struggle, the struggle with the bourgeoisie and its state’ (Luxemburg 1979a, 484). Luxemburg concluded that ‘The representatives of the working class, without repudiating their role as such, can only enter into a bourgeois government in one case: to seize this government and transform it into one of the ruling working class’ (Luxemburg 1979a, 485). In the debate on socialist participation in government, Luxemburg established four decisive theses for her understanding of the state: (1) reforms within capitalism never transform the capitalist character of property relations so fundamentally as to bring forth elements and tendencies of a new order. Socialism cannot be ‘implemented’ as a gradual transformation, but rather must be done so by a state with an entirely socialist character. The seizure of state power by the working class is the actual goal, as this is the only way to overturn the economic order. (2) The bourgeois state is the most significant impediment to a socialist reorganisation of society. It forms the wall that must be battered down for a revolution to be initiated. (3) From the executive of a bourgeois state, only bourgeois politics can be pursued, whereas in the legislative branch, it is possible to attempt to implement social reforms while ‘simultaneously opposing the bourgeois government as a whole – something that is manifested, among other places, in the rejection of the budget’ (Luxemburg 1979a, 485). (4) Struggling to protect bourgeois democracy and being prepared to undertake revolutionary violence go hand-in-hand. These four central theses of Luxemburg stemmed primarily from her desire to preserve the independence of socialist forces, their militancy and their anti-capitalist character. Because she believed that the left’s power lay above all outside of the institutions of bourgeois society, she saw this power as completely irreconcilable with immediate participation in government. In Luxemburg’s day, theoretical discussions and debates were directly linked within the social democratic movement.

5

THE MILLERAND CASE—SOCIALIST PARTICIPATION …

89

Here, it cannot be said that scientific inquiry had a genuinely independent existence from political action. Conceptions of state and society were also political positions, which is why transformations within theory triggered such heated discussions. In what follows, all four of the positions expressed by Luxemburg in the dispute surrounding the ‘Millerand case’—her understanding of capitalism, socialism, the state and politics— will be explored.

Capitalism and the Class State Rosa Luxemburg’s understanding of the state was based on the understanding of capitalism and socialism as formulated in the orthodox Marxism of the Second International. Here, the fact that ‘The social product is appropriated by the individual capitalist ’ is seen as the ‘Fundamental contradiction’ (Engels 2010, 324) from which all contradictions of the capitalist mode of production arise. According to this view, this contradiction of social production and private-capitalist appropriation could only be overcome by the working class taking over state power: ‘The proletariat seizes the public power, and by means of this transforms the socialised means of production, slipping from the hands of the bourgeoisie, into public property. By this act, the proletariat frees the means of production from the character of capital they have thus far borne, and gives their socialised character complete freedom to work itself out. Socialised production upon a predetermined plan becomes henceforth possible. The development of production makes the existence of different classes of society thenceforth an anachronism. In proportion as anarchy in social production vanishes, the political authority of the State dies out. Man, at last the master of his own form of social organisation, becomes at the same time the lord over Nature, his own master – free’ (Engels 2010, 325). In his text The Erfurt Programme, Karl Kautsky derived the collapse of capitalism from the tendency of the vast majority of the population to be pushed into wage-dependency: ‘Within capitalist society, private ownership of the means of production leads to everyone becoming propertyless with the exception of a few individuals. In other words, it leads to its own abolition, to all becoming propertyless and enslaved. In the process, the development of the capitalist production of commodities also leads to the abolition of its own foundations. Capitalist exploitation becomes

90

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

nonsensical when the exploiter no longer finds any customers for his commodities beyond those whom he is exploiting. If the wage labourers are the only consumers, then no one can purchase the products in which the surplus-value is embodied, and the surplus-value becomes: valueless. In fact, a state such as the one depicted here would be as outrageous as it would be impossible. It can and will never come about. For its mere approximation would so intensify the suffering, oppositions and contradictions within society that they would become unbearable. Society would become completely derailed if this development were not redirected’ (Kautsky 1965, 88f.). Luxemburg subsequently produced her own answer to this question with her theory of accumulation (see Chapter 8). Orthodox Marxists’ almost desperate search for a theoretical, strictly scientific justification of the inevitability of capitalism’s collapse was not a question of the personal ambition or dogmatic obstinacy of its representatives. Rather, it was the central pillar of their very research programme and its paradigm. Neither the undeniably contradictory nature of capitalist societies alone nor the mere desire for another world could establish with scientific certainty the inevitability of capitalism’s overthrow. After all, as the at least century-long history of capitalism already demonstrated at the time, contradictions can be mediated in new ways, not least by state reform. If the destructive consequences of particular tendencies of an unfettered capitalism could be controlled by social reforms, democratisation, regulation, expansion of the public sector, demilitarisation and so on without the transfer to public ownership of all important means of production and the abolition of the production of commodities, collapse would not be experienced by capitalism, but rather by the edifice of orthodox Marxism. And this posed an immediate threat to the revolutionary, anti-capitalist self-conception of the Marxist left of the day. Similar to Luxemburg’s position in her dispute with Bernstein, her position in the debate on participation in government simply cannot be understood only in reference to the concrete effect of reforms and the specific consequences of socialist participation in bourgeois governments. For Luxemburg, there was an eminently clear benchmark in politics: as long as property was not centralised by a socialist government and transferred to public ownership in order to replace individual enterprises producing surplus value—that is, to replace the production of commodities—with a society-wide production planned around the needs of society’s members, so too would all government policy remain essentially bourgeois, even though the weight given to the interests of workers

5

THE MILLERAND CASE—SOCIALIST PARTICIPATION …

91

by such policy may vary. Of course, in an exceptional case—in times of the bourgeoisie’s incapability to govern—social democracy could be forced to take over this task in order to defend democratic and social achievements. Yet in doing so, social democracy would neither be pursuing socialist politics in a narrower sense, nor altering or casting doubt upon its fundamental opposition to the capitalist system. Only the use of state power for the purpose of a socialist revolution in property relations would constitute genuinely socialist government policy. The stridency of Luxemburg’s argument should be given its due consideration: according to this argument, as long as capitalist property relations are not overcome—as long as there is no society-wide planning of production and distribution on the basis of public ownership of all essential means of production—it may be possible for certain interests of workers to be satisfied to a degree, but these interests will remain subordinated to the dominant economic laws of capitalism. As long as there is a capitalist property regime, the state remains essentially bourgeois, its executive in particular invariably bound to the maintenance of this order. The basis of such a conception is the notion that the property regime itself can only lose its capitalist character by a socialist state socialising all essential means of production. In all of its basic functions, the state will remain bourgeois as long as the working class does not solve the question of property through a politics of comprehensive nationalisation and does not take this nationalisation as the starting point for realising a socialised ownership of producers under the socialised conditions of production. The understanding of socialism as production based on social ownership for the purpose of satisfying needs (without moneycommodity relations) is inseparable from Luxemburg’s position that a politics of reform is bourgeois if a break with the capitalist system does not stand at its centre.

The Bourgeois State as Barrier Between Capitalism and Socialism If gradually transforming the state—a process that would inevitably trigger massive upheavals—is impossible, then on the basis of capitalist property relations, the state itself can only be a bourgeois class state that presents better or worse conditions for the struggle for a revolutionary transformation of property. As Engels wrote, ‘Society thus far, based

92

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

upon class antagonisms, had need of the State. That is, of an organisation of the particular class which was pro tempore the exploiting class, an organisation for the purpose of preventing any interference from without with the existing conditions of production, and therefore, especially, for the purpose of forcibly keeping the exploited classes in the condition of oppression corresponding with the given mode of production (slavery, serfdom, wage-labour)’ (Engels 2010, 324). No matter which social and democratic achievements the labour movement may win—to say nothing of which reforms a government (with or without social democratic participation) might be able to implement— Luxemburg and the other Marxists of her time argued that none of these transformations would eliminate capitalism or its destructive tendencies. Given the contradiction in the economic foundation of society, reforms could only bring about partial results while elements of barbarism continued to pile up. Reforms would not alter the fundamental feature of this society—the scandal of private-capitalist ownership of a socialised process of production. As Luxemburg argued, precisely because the contradiction between the social character of production and the privatecapitalist appropriation escalates over time, the state must become an increasingly authoritarian bourgeois class state. Following Luxemburg’s understanding, it is not the relations of production, but rather the state that emerges as the actual impediment to a socialist development. The state can either assume a bourgeois form, in which case it does everything it can to prevent a transition to socialism, or it can assume a socialist form, becoming the apparatus of working-class political rule and implementing this very transition. Therefore, the political struggle against the bourgeois state is the decisive struggle. And such a struggle can never be waged from within government. In contrast, reformists and revisionists came to see the state as an instrument with which capitalist society could be reformed in a more or less gradual manner. According to this view, capitalism should be driven to its own transcendence economically, by strengthening the power of trade unions and letting them partake in economic decision-making; culturally, by enabling advancement through education and equal participation in intellectual life; and politically, by socialist involvement in state power. As Eduard David wrote: In the starkest contrast to Kautsky, I am of the opinion that taking over the government in the states governed by parliaments can and will only

5

THE MILLERAND CASE—SOCIALIST PARTICIPATION …

93

occur in a piecemeal manner. In France and elsewhere, socialists do not yet control the government only because the vast majority of the people is not yet inclined to give it to them. The turn in the opinion of the majority of the people will not be sudden. Only gradually, from election to election, will our comrades succeed in increasing their parliamentary mandate. Yet to the degree that they succeed, they will be able to take control of individual ministries in a left-liberal coalition government. And as soon as they are able to do so, they will do so, indeed, their masses of voters will force them to. If theorists would nevertheless like to very precisely demonstrations that this would be the most shameful betrayal of the principle of class struggle, the masses of voters would not understand this, and would not tolerate their elected representatives giving away an instrument of power that would quite fundamentally improve the situation of the proletariat, even though it would not yet be enough to produce the collectivist society. (David 1900, 708)

Luxemburg herself claimed the exact opposite of David, arguing that as long as the state does not nationalise property and subordinate property to the rule of the producers (the working class), its existence as a bourgeois state makes it the most significant bulwark against any fundamental transformation. In such a state, involvement in the executive exercise of power is involvement in the prevention of a socialist upheaval. Luxemburg believed that the actual impediment to socialism existed neither in the relations of production, nor in civil society as Gramsci later claimed, but rather in the state as an instrument of power and authority. If the state were not standing in the way, tendencies towards socialisation would inevitably take hold. This position leads to an either-or: the entirety of state power is deployed either to preserve an antiquated capitalist property regime or to overthrow said regime. Participation in a bourgeois government can therefore only mean involvement in one of the following three functions of a bourgeois state: first, the state can attempt to protect the fundamental structure of capitalism by ensuring that general social functions are fulfilled on the basis of this structure (the state represents the concerns of the whole of society in the interest of owners of capital). This also involves the state using its monopoly on the use of force to suppress movements opposed to the system. Second, the state can provide conditions of production that capital cannot produce with its own private means, thereby expanding the boundaries of capital’s private domain (the state as total capitalist and as actor within state-regulated capitalism or

94

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

state capitalism). Third, against the resistance of the individual blinkered representatives of capital, the state can try to make particular concessions to the proletariat and other subaltern social groups in order to promote social peace, ‘baiting’ sections of the lower social classes with offers of integration while subordinating itself to the hegemony of capital (the state as capital owners’ social and ideological apparatus of integration). In each of these functions, state activity ultimately aims at preserving instead of transforming capitalist property relations. For this reason, Luxemburg argued that state activity is bourgeois politics, even when it genuinely and effectively improves the immediate situation of workers. Luxemburg and other revolutionary Marxists of her time were driven by practical considerations to repeatedly confront the question of the state, but this question is (also) theoretically justified. If powerful tendencies towards overcoming the antagonism between socialised production and private-capitalist appropriation result from capitalism itself, and if this overcoming is in the interest of the ever-growing majority of the population, then the question emerges as to why it does not commence. Economically, this could not be explained within the framework of Marxism, for precisely within the economy, the crucible of capitalist contradictions, there seemed to be a steadily growing pressure. The state ‘superstructure’ therefore appeared as a ‘lid’ that would have to fit ever more tightly and firmly to withstand this pressure until bursting open in an eruption releasing the magma of a new socialist property regime— magma that had been heated from within the capitalist economy. The theoretical conception of a class state in the narrow sense discussed above is closely linked to the demand for social democracy’s revolutionary autonomy.

Socialist Politics in the Bourgeois State The partial democratisation of some European states—whether a consequence of reforms or revolutions, of military defeats or simply of savvy conservative federal politics such as in the case of Germany—always came about as the working class emerged as a social force. The Chartist movement in England was already both a movement for universal (male) suffrage and social reforms. Only the working class could exert the pressure needed to transform a democracy of landowners into a parliament representing the people (albeit initially, only those who were male). The idea of (male) universal suffrage was difficult to resist under modern

5

THE MILLERAND CASE—SOCIALIST PARTICIPATION …

95

conditions. The integration of large portions of the population into industry, the concentration of the workforce in crowded urban areas that were frequently close to the seats of government, the military revolutions after Napoleon that led to universal conscription, all these developments led to a widespread increase in state dependence on the loyalty of the population in general and of the (male and white) working class in particular. The emerging labour movement was the spearhead of the expansion in universal (male) suffrage. The successes of this struggle were reflected by the emergence of the first labour parties, with which workers reclaimed parliamentary representation from liberal bourgeois forces, taking it into their own hands. Yet these successes also gave rise to the question of what was to be done with newfound parliamentary power. As the working class’s representation in parliament grew, and as the formation of parliamentary majorities increasingly revolved around the question of whether or not to include socialist parties, so too did the debate intensify on whether direct influence should be exerted on governing coalitions. As the French socialist Albert Thomas wrote, ‘In all parliaments, does the vote of one member have the same value as every other, the same value as an action – is this true in the German Reichstag as well as the French parliament? Are the members of the Reichstag in a position to tell themselves that one of their votes could topple the government, that it could replace one system with another, even if only one bourgeois system with another? For this is precisely the situation in which the French Social Democrats have been for years’ (Thomas 1903, 487). The reformists and revisionists sought to use parliamentary power to push for compromises in budgetary questions, to achieve majorities in support of reforms and to participate in governments. They believed ‘that socialism today is strong enough to penetrate bourgeois institutions everywhere without being absorbed by them, and that it therefore has the strength, the right and the duty to demand its share of power from bourgeois society and to shape matters in increasing measure’ (von Vollmar 1900, 783). As Eduard Bernstein wrote, ‘The abstinence of socialists on the question of government formation’ in spite of their ability to influence government formation would have the same effect ‘as political abstinence always has: one gives oneself the ability to tie the hands of others without really increasing one’s own freedom to act. One buries one’s assets instead of letting them grow’ (Bernstein 1902, 256). Against this, Marxist forces assumed that representation in parliament should be

96

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

used exclusively to strengthen the unity and independence of the labour movement. Believing that the representation of workers in a bourgeois parliament could exist as class struggle but that independent labour politics not could exist within a bourgeois government, they argued that participation in government would actually tie the hands of socialists and make class struggle impossible. And for these forces, class struggle was the dividing line between a Radical Democratic Party and a socialist one. Marxists thereby formulated an understanding of the bourgeois state’s power structures that clearly distinguished between parliament and government. Luxemburg described this understanding as follows: ‘While the parliament forms an organ of class- and factional struggle within bourgeois society, and is therefore the most appropriate terrain for the systematic resistance of socialists against the rule of the bourgeoisie, this role of the representatives of the workers is precluded from the outset within the palace of the government’ (Luxemburg 1979c, 58). Because Luxemburg saw the government as being ‘called upon to implement the finished result of party battles in parliament and the country’, she argued that it is ‘above all an organ of action whose viability depends on internal homogeneity’ (Luxemburg 1979c, 58). The government of a nation state appeared to her as a whole that could only be ‘the political organisation of the capitalist economy’; between its functions, she perceived the existence of ‘total harmony’ (Luxemburg 1979c, 59). As she elaborated further, ‘The central government of a modern state represents a machinery whose individual parts interlock from all sides, determining and regulating each other’s movements. The immediate mechanism of transmission that sets the entire machinery in motion is the bourgeois parliament, but the driving force is primarily class- and party relations in the country – and these ultimately stem from relations of production and exchange in a society’s economy. The capitalist unity of economics here corresponds to the bourgeois unity of governmental policy there’ (Luxemburg 1979c, 58). According to Luxemburg, as the individual functions of government are mutually inseparable, ‘individual members must act in solidarity with each other’ (ibid.), and it is a ‘completely utopian plan to think that a department of the government could do bourgeois politics while another does socialist politics, with the central power thus able to be gradually taken over for the working class, department by department’ (Luxemburg 1979c, 60). This position led Luxemburg, regardless of strategic considerations, to always refuse to view the budget as the general expression of the basic tendency of a class state—a refusal which she championed to the

5

THE MILLERAND CASE—SOCIALIST PARTICIPATION …

97

representatives of the SPD in the State Parliament of Baden among others (Luxemburg 1979b). Luxemburg did qualify this view at least insofar as she believed the participation of socialists in organs of communal self-governance should be treated differently: ‘While the government embodies the centralised state, the municipality grows out of local self-governance at the expense of central power. While the actual essence of government is constituted by the specific means of bourgeois class rule – militarism, the church, trade policy, foreign policy – the municipality is specifically called upon to deal with cultural and economic tasks, or on other words, those tasks that correspond to the administrative mechanism of a socialist society free from all class divisions. For this reason, central and local authority historically form two opposite poles in contemporary society. The constant struggle between the municipality and the government, between the mayor and the prefects in France, is the concrete expression of this historical opposition’ (Luxemburg 1979c, 62). In citizen self-governance and the strengthening of local communities, Luxemburg perceived a tendency that gestured beyond the bourgeois class state. Luxemburg did not extend these considerations to the central state, for she did not believe that any possibilities for strengthening socialist tendencies would come about by participating in government. As she viewed the capitalist economy as having a uniform orientation, she also assumed bourgeois governments would act in a uniform manner approximating that of the collective political total capitalist. In marked contrast to Luxemburg, Nicos Poulantzas would later claim that within the states, the contradictions between the factions of the dominant classes ‘take the form of internal contradictions between, and at the heart of, its various branches and apparatuses’ (Poulantzas 2000, 132f.). According to this position, because the state prepares class compromises in order enable cohesion in a society ridden with class oppositions (Poulantzas 1978, 144), the action of its executive is also a field of social struggles. The inner contradictoriness of the economy structured along capitalist lines is said to find its political movement pattern in the structure of the capitalist state. As was true of other revolutionary socialists, the entirety of Luxemburg’s thought aimed at constituting and developing the labour movement and its parties as autonomous forces that were independent of the state—as forces that would eventually be able to take over the state, smashing the state machinery of the ruling class and using the newly

98

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

created state power of the workers to revolutionise the property regime. According to her, the existing state could only be used as an instrument of socialist politics in proportion to the labour movement’s strength, and socialist approaches towards the state could only take the form of a politics of opposition. In opposition, socialist politics could both lead ‘an extended agitation’ in elections and parliament and ‘positively influence the politics of the government’ without itself becoming a ‘ministerial party’ (Luxemburg 1979d, 629). Luxemburg had also very practical reasons for her position: ‘Far from making practical, tangible achievements and immediate reforms impossible, fundamental opposition is actually the only effective means for minority parties in general, and particularly for the socialist party, to achieve practical successes’ (Luxemburg 1979c, 32). Following this, socialists can force concessions from a bourgeois majority in three ways: ‘(1) by making more ambitious demands than the bourgeois parties and thereby functioning as a dangerous competitor to them, pushing them forward with the pressure of the masses of voters; (2) by exposing the government before the country and thereby influencing it through public opinion; (3) by using critique both within and outside of parliament to gather the people’s masses around them, thereby growing into a formidable power that the government and bourgeoisie must take into account’ (Luxemburg 1979c, 33). Luxemburg argued that participation in government forecloses the possibility of criticising the government and thus of enlightening the masses, leads to compromises being struck at any price and betrays the left to the bourgeois majority while weakening its extra-parliamentary strength—making it able to achieve not more, but indeed far less than it could from opposition. Because Luxemburg believed that all power to transform society lay in the independence of socialist forces, and that only the external application of pressure to government policy could preserve this independence, she maintained that socialist participation in government must always only be an absolute exception (see more on this below). This led her to the following conclusion: ‘Far away from inaugurating a new era of social reform in France, the ministership of Millerand means: stopping the struggle of the working class for social reform before it has even begun, that is, suffocating that element which alone could instil a healthy modern life into the ossified French social policy’ (Luxemburg 1979c, 57).

5

THE MILLERAND CASE—SOCIALIST PARTICIPATION …

99

The Struggle for the Democratisation of Democracy and the Question of Violence The discussion that Millerand’s participation in government triggered within the socialist labour movement was inseparably bound with the question of how the socialist left should respond if democracy itself were under threat. If this were the case, should it enter into a popular front composed of socialist and bourgeois democrats alike? Should this popular front take the form of a republican coalition government? Should socialists neutrally observe the contradictions between sections of the ruling classes that tend towards (military) dictatorship and those committed to a parliamentary republic? Should they act as a third force and demand a social republic? Or should they take sides, potentially setting aside their long-term goals to defend the republic? Luxemburg saw these questions as misleading. In times during which bourgeois democracy is threatened, just as at all other times, she believed socialist politics should focus on fostering the ability to ‘organically connect the socialist end goal with practical day-to-day politics ’ (Luxemburg 1979e, 654). Luxemburg assumed that capitalist society was characterised by a perpetual process of disintegration between individual interest groups, a process that also afflicts bourgeois democracy. The early foundations of a monarchist counter-revolution may fall away since all classes excluding the proletariat stand to profit from the bourgeois development of society (see Luxemburg 1979c, 16), yet if all of the privileged groups lose the ability to think beyond their own narrow self-interest, they would no longer be able to defend the republic in its entirety. A society fragmented in this manner would then be confronted with a ‘fundamental contradiction’ of the kind that emerged with France’s colonial expansion. This is the contradiction ‘between a republic based on the rule of a bourgeois parliament and a large standing army tailored to colonial and global politics’ (Luxemburg 1979c, 19)—an army that escapes control of democratic institutions and poses a danger to them. It is the contradiction between the bourgeois nation state and the chauvinistic imperialism that Hannah Arendt would later identify, with reference to Luxemburg, as one of the causes of National Socialism and its total domination. Luxemburg summarised her analysis of bourgeois democracy’s selfendangerment thusly: ‘The social development in France, which has taken the interest-oriented political culture of the bourgeoisie so far as to let

100

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

it degrade into individual groups – groups that have completely disregarded any broader responsibility and made government and parliament into playthings of their own self-interest – has also produced the independence of the army, turning it from a tool of state interest into its own interest group, and one that is prepared to defend its privileges regardless of the republic, in spite of the republic and against the republic’ (Luxemburg 1979c, 19). This situation emerged before Luxemburg as a paradox: a socialist movement that had not yet managed to transcend the bourgeois republic through a socialist revolution was now forced to defend the former against all forces threatening it from within. Ultimately, she concluded that it was valid for socialists ‘to save the republic, democracy, the state of the present from its downfall into barbarism in order to be able to build it up into a socialist commonwealth’ (Luxemburg 1979e, 654). Indeed, in order that a socialist revolution might be possible at all, it was necessary to save the bourgeois state ‘from a premature disintegration, to keep it viable and cultivatable’ (Luxemburg 1979e, 654). However, by this, Luxemburg precisely did not mean that the very status quo that caused the self-endangerment of the bourgeois republic should be defended. Instead, she argued that the standing army be replaced by a popular militia in order to halt the growing independence of the army and ‘to assert the independence of republican civil authority’ (Luxemburg 1979c, 20). Whoever had worked towards a coup against the republic needed to be held accountable before court. The separation of church and state needed to be implemented and the observance of faith transformed into a purely private matter in order to deprive this further source of anti-republican power. And of course, imperialist politics needed to be ended immediately. It had to be shown ‘that the bourgeois France still has enough power to eliminate and neutralise the elements of disintegration that it produces’ (Luxemburg 1979c, 21). The struggle against a coup d’état would have to be used to comprehensively democratise the republic. Luxemburg therefore criticised that the ‘defence of the republic’ government of which Millerand was a member pursued none of these tasks, not even to a degree: ‘If the monarchist danger was small, as we sought to demonstrate it was, then the pompously initiated fiasco that is this government rescue observation is an absurdity. On the other hand, if this danger was great and serious, then the pseudo-action of the cabinet is a betrayal of the republic and of the parties loyal to it’ (Luxemburg 1979c, 26).

5

THE MILLERAND CASE—SOCIALIST PARTICIPATION …

101

Defending parliamentary democracy; advocating for the rule of law, social reforms, the subordination of the army to democratic institutions, the separation of church and state, the overcoming of militarism and imperialism; all radical democratic and social demands—in the eyes of Luxemburg—all these were integral parts of a socialist politics opposed to the bourgeois state. However, rather than reducing itself to any of these parts, a socialist politics would have to effectively pursue the goal of strengthening the autonomous power of the labour movement. For Luxemburg, democratisation and social reforms provided movements for emancipation with an adequate field of struggle and were therefore preferable to any return to dictatorship or intensified exploitation. It was not in the misery of the proletariat, but in the latter’s sovereign formation, in its organisation and worker self-education that she perceived the point of departure for a socialist revolution. She believed this revolution would find its most favourable conditions in the struggle to democratise bourgeois democracy and improve the position of workers—but only if workers fought for and won successes in this struggle themselves, and in doing so recognised that the fruits of development can only be maintained in full if they ultimately held power themselves. Similar to Kautsky, Luxemburg assumed ‘that a working-class seizure of state power can only be the result of a more or less extended period of regular daily class struggle in which efforts to progressively democratise the state and parliament constitute a maximally effective means of the intellectual and material elevation of the working class’ (Luxemburg 1979f, 246f.). Luxemburg assumed that the ruling classes would resort to violence in a situation in which their supremacy was threatened, willingly suspending the constitutional foundations of the bourgeois state as they did so. Violence was not her preferred mean to pursue socialist politics, as was also true of Friedrich Engels and many other Marxists of the day, but rather something that must be used very carefully for the purpose of defence, and only when the ruling classes themselves deploy extra-legal violence. In the course of the development of the labour movement, advantageous conditions would need to be created for a ‘violent revolution’—‘the entire political situation and the relations of power’ would have to ‘more or less guarantee the probability of success’ (Luxemburg 1979f, 247). However, parliamentarianism could not be the only means of class struggle: ‘Quite the contrary, violence is and remains the last resort of the working class as well, the supreme law of class struggle, sometimes latently present, sometimes actively so’ (Luxemburg 1979f,

102

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

247). For Luxemburg, the epoch of violent revolutions had not reached its end. She firmly believed that the ability to exert violence was the actual secret of all power: ‘And if we revolutionise the minds through our activity in parliament or wherever else, this happens so that ultimately, in an emergency, the revolution will descend from the minds to the fists’ (Luxemburg 1979f, 247)—after all, the ‘entire capitalist state is based on violence’ (Luxemburg 1979f, 241) itself. Anticipating the bourgeoisie’s resistance, Luxemburg saw a ‘peaceful growth’ into socialism as illusory.

Conclusion Rosa Luxemburg’s position in the discussion triggered by Millerand’s entry into the French government in 1899 can only be understood in the light of the actual problem concerning her: namely, the ‘problem of organically unifying the practical work of the present with the future ideal, the movement with the socialist end goal ’ (Luxemburg 1979e, 659). For her, the relationship of these two elements to each other constantly needed to be brought into ‘balance’ (ibid.). ‘The ultimate solution to the relationship between the end goal and the movement, between socialist future and bourgeois present’, she argued, ‘is only achieved when the end goal entirely corresponds to the movement, or in other words, when the socialist future becomes the present. When that happens, the class struggle and the Social Democratic development will have reached their end’ (Luxemburg 1979e, 659f.). Luxemburg’s concern was with a ‘revolutionary Realpolitik’, a politics that is real from the ‘standpoint of the tendency of historical development ’ and that elevates the ‘minor political work of the everyday to the executive tool of the great idea’ (Luxemburg 1979g, 373). Insofar as Luxemburg placed the tension between socialism as a real movement and proclaimed end at the centre of her analyses of participation in government by socialists, she possessed a quite strict standard that led her to sober insights concerning the existing limits of left-wing reformism. This allowed her to tease out the internal contradictions of the way in which the state was understood within the orthodox Marxism of the Second International and to push the entire construct to its breaking point. In actual historical terms, this point was reached at the latest on 1 August 1914 with the beginning of World War I. Henceforth, revolutionary socialism and reformism went separate ways. For her own part, Rosa Luxemburg drew the following conclusion from the debate

5

THE MILLERAND CASE—SOCIALIST PARTICIPATION …

103

on Millerand’s participation in government: ‘So it is that the ship of dogma-free socialism returns from its first trial voyage on the waters of practical politics, entering the harbour with broken masts, smashed helm and corpses on board’ (Luxemburg 1979f, 179). She thereby rejected a dogmatic socialism—yet nevertheless, dogmatism would become the fate of the Communist wing of the left in the twentieth century.

Bibliography Bernstein, Eduard. 1902. Zur jüngsten Entwicklung der französischen Sozialdemokratie: 250–262. David, Eduard. 1900. Der internationale Kongress und die »Einigung« der französischen Sozialisten. Socialistische Monatshefte: 703–709. Engels, Friedrich. 2010. Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880). In MECW , vol. 24, 281–325. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Jaurès, Jean. 1901. Der Eintritt Millerands ins Ministerium. Die Neue Zeit: 109– 115. Kautsky, Karl. 1965. Das Erfurter Programm (nach der ersten Ausgabe von 1892). Berlin: Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979a. Eine taktische Frage (1899). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.1, 483–486. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979b. Die badische Budgetabstimmung (1900). In Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 1.2, 77–85. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979c. Die sozialistische Krise in Frankreich (1900/01). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.2, 5–73. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979d. Rezension (1899). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.1, 629–631. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979e. Die französische Einigung (1899). In Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 1.1, 651–660. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979f. Und zum dritten Male das belgische Experiment (1901/02). In Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 1.2, 229–248. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979g. Karl Marx (1903). In Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 1.2, 369–377. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Marx, Karl. 1996. Capital. Volume I. In MECW , vol. 35. New York: International Publishers. Poulantzas, Nicos. 1978. Classes in Contemporary Capitalism. London: New Left Books. Poulantzas, Nicos. 2000. State, Power, Socialism. London: Verso. Thomas, Albert. 1903. Nachklänge der Millerand-Debatte in Bordeaux. Socialistische Monatshefte: 486–491.

104

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Vaillant, Edouard. 1901. Der Eintritt Millerands ins Ministerium. Die Neue Zeit: 144–146. von Vollmar, Georg. 1900. Zum Fall Millerand Socialistische Monatshefte: 767– 783. Zweite Internationale. 1975. Kongress-Protokolle der Zweiten Internationale, 1975: Reprint. Bd. 1: 1889—Amsterdam 1904. Bonn: J.H.W. Dietz.

CHAPTER 6

The Electric Age of Unexpected Developments: The 1905 Russian Revolution

[…] I’ll gladly take an age that poses numerous problems and vast problems, that stimulates thought, that inspires ‘critique, irony and deeper significance’, that inflames passions and is—above all—a fertile, pregnant age that gives birth by the hour and after each birth emerges even more ‘pregnant’, and that gives birth not to dead mice, certainly not to rotting flies, like in Berlin, but rather to enormous things of all sorts […]. The revolution is magnificent, everything else is rubbish! Rosa Luxemburg (1982a)

General Strike, Debate on Organisation and Political Leadership Rosa Luxemburg’s main political influences were always both Karl Marx and Ferdinand Lassalle. The former stood out to her as the founder of a scientific worldview of the working class, whereas the latter did so as a resolute and agile political actor and founder of the first independent political party of this class in Germany. Referring to these two figures— the two poles of a political philosophy emphasising historical praxis—she wrote: And whereas Marx threw cold water on the revolution-plotting of old with the maxim that men make their own history but not as free individuals, © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 M. Brie and J. Schütrumpf, Rosa Luxemburg, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67486-1_6

105

106

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Lassalle pointed out with inverted emphasis but just as much accuracy the importance of inspired initiative, of revolutionary energy and resolve, when he preached to German workers the following words: Men do not make history as free individuals, but they make their own history! (Luxemburg 1978a, 182f.)

The question of how history might be ‘made’ became increasingly central to Luxemburg’s strategic quest after 1900. She was conscious of the fact that ‘[…] we live in the electric age of unexpected developments, [that] lightning-fast surprise belongs to the tools of the trade of the newest course’ (Luxemburg 2014a, 286). The modes of action upon which German Social Democracy had previously relied struck her as too narrow: in her eyes, elections, trade union conflicts and political agitation were leading the labour movement to become increasingly complacent within imperial German society. The serious confrontations out of which revolutionary experience should arise were nowhere to be found. Thus, the left wing of the SPD began to emphasise the mass strike as an essential means for achieving central democratic goals. Previously, the mass strike had been viewed as a last resort to be employed in the case of an antidemocratic offensive by ruling circles (see Parvus 1896). Now, however, going on the offensive and breaking out of stagnation was the order of the hour. This was the context in which Luxemburg turned a critical eye towards recent experiences in Belgium. In 1902, Belgian socialists had tried to win democratic voting rights with the help of the long-forbidden general strike. However, the strike proved largely fruitless and was abandoned after one week. According to Luxemburg, the main cause of this failure was the socialists ceding political leadership to the liberals (Luxemburg 1979a, 218). Nonetheless, she drew lessons from the incident about the general strike. The dominant notion in German Social Democracy that it should only be used once the entire working class was organised and committed to overthrowing capitalism was for Luxemburg ‘not applicable to local and contingent political general strikes, for which the only necessary prerequisites are a popular political aim and materially advantageous circumstances’ (Luxemburg 1979b, 236). The general strike should not be seen as the opposite of parliamentary work but rather as its complement, as another ‘tool’ to be employed alongside political agitation. A general strike should also entail a readiness to engage in extralegal violence (Luxemburg 1979b, 241). Anything less would amount to rejecting revolution. Luxemburg

6

THE ELECTRIC AGE OF UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENTS …

107

concluded that the rejection of the tactic of the political strike, more widespread in Germany than in Belgium or France, reflected the ‘semiAsiatic backwardness’ of the SPD ‘in political terms’ (Luxemburg 1979b, 238), thereby calling the fundamental consensus of the SPD into question. For the SPD, it had become self-evident that the use of illegal tactics, let alone violence (of which an illegal political strike would constitute one form), was out of the question. Against this position, Luxemburg emphasised that violence would be necessary ‘both in individual episodes of the class struggle as well as in the ultimate takeover of the state apparatus’ (Luxemburg 1979b, 247). Luxemburg’s analysis of the general strike in Belgium also led her to reject the idea that mass action could only be successful given an extremely high level of organisation and extensive financial resources. This went against conventional wisdom in the SPD, which saw the task at hand as simply raising the level of worker organisation until a level of agency so overwhelming had been achieved that power would be won almost automatically. The party operated like a general who constantly avoids battles because he can never be absolutely certain that his side’s strength in numbers will be enough to carry the day. Luxemburg objected to this: ‘Rather than circling back and forth between the required amount of socialist enlightenment and the intended, socialistically enlightened result […], the political general strike attaches deeper and more profound meaning to moments in everyday political life and serves at the same time as an effective means of socialist agitation in its own right’ (Luxemburg 1979b, 236f.). Luxemburg’s strategic orientation came increasingly to focus on direct, militant mass action that brought about changes in circumstances as well as in the political actors engaged in it. Rather than Engels’s ‘pike square’ being calmly and largely passively enlarged through elections, she believed it should bring itself into being through its own activity. The relationship between working class and leadership implied by this vision contradicted the decades-long praxis of the SPD, even though Luxemburg had yet to directly challenge the party executive. Rule over the masses, for her the classic bourgeois political form, needed to be inverted: The only role of so-called ‘leaders’ in Social Democracy is to enlighten the masses on their historical tasks. The reputation, the influence of ‘leaders’ in Social Democracy grows only in relation to how much they enlighten, in other words, in relation to how much they destroy what up to now

108

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

has been the basis of every leadership, namely the blindness of the masses, in relationship to, in a word, how they themselves renounce their leadership, make the masses into their own leader [Führer] and themselves into mere executors [Ausführern], into the tools of conscious mass action. (Luxemburg 1979c, 396)

For Luxemburg, refusing to go on the offensive out of fear of the enemy’s reaction was fatal (Luxemburg 2014b, 392–394). Doing so meant confining oneself to the defensive forever. The question of leadership and ‘masses’ came to the surface again when a conflict over party statutes broke out at the second conference of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, held in Brussels and London from 30 July to 23 August 1903. Lenin later outlined his position on this conflict in his 1904 paper ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back’, arguing that creating ‘a real party’ under the concrete conditions of absolutist Russia necessitated the unconditional acceptance of resolutions passed by a majority of delegates. Focusing in his argument on the commitment of the membership to active party work and the rights of party executive committees that could for the most part only operate from abroad, Lenin wrote: But as we proceed with the building of a real party, the class-conscious worker must learn to distinguish the mentality of the soldier of the proletarian army from the mentality of the bourgeois intellectual who parades anarchistic phrases; he must learn to insist that the duties of a Party member be fulfilled not only by the rank and file, but by the ‘people at the top’ as well; he must learn to treat tail-ism in matters of organisation with the same contempt as he used, in days gone by, to treat tail-ism in matters of tactics! (Lenin 1977, 392f.)

Seeking to ‘let authorities loose on [Lenin]’ (cited in Laschitza 2002, 197), the Mensheviks subsequently appealed to Luxemburg among others. Immediately thereafter, Luxemburg wrote her article ‘Organisational Questions of the Russian Social Democracy’ which appeared in Iskra and in Die Neue Zeit. Vorwärts, the most important party newspaper of the SPD, rejected the Russian Social Democrats’ request to publish Luxemburg’s analysis on the basis that the Russian movement was ‘still so young’ and had ‘little to offer the mature German movement’ (cited in Laschitza 2002, 196). Luxemburg saw things differently:

6

THE ELECTRIC AGE OF UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENTS …

109

It ranks among longstanding, time-honoured truths that the social democratic movement in underdeveloped countries must above all learn from the older movement in advanced countries. We venture to counter this sentence with its opposite: The older and more mature social democratic parties can and should just as well learn from their close acquaintance with their younger brother parties. Just as the Marxist economist […] does not simply regard all economic stages prior to the capitalist order merely as ‘underdeveloped’ forms of the crown of creation that is capitalism but rather as historically equal types of economy, so too does the Marxist politician view the variously developed socialist movements as historically particular individualities in themselves. And the more we are introduced to the same essential features of Social Democracy in the whole diversity of its various social milieus, all the more we become conscious what’s essential, what’s fundamental, what’s principal to the social democratic movement while the blinkers around our fields of vision caused by every localism fall away. (Luxemburg 1979d, 422)

In her article, Luxemburg emphasised Russia’s particularity. Due to Tsarist absolutism, social democracy had ‘to lead the proletariat straight from the political atomization that forms the basis of the autocratic regime to the highest form of organization – a class that is conscious of its aims and fights for them’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 247). This organisation would have to be created ‘like Almighty God “from nothing”, in a void’ (ibid.). While social democracy had always been shaped by a degree of centralism, Lenin’s was a ‘pitiless centralism’ based on two principles: ‘on the blind submission of all party organizations and their activity, down to the smallest detail, to a central authority that alone thinks, acts and decides for everyone, and also on the strict separation of the organized nucleus of the party from its surrounding revolutionary milieu’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 252). Against this ‘ultra-centralism’, Luxemburg advocated for a ‘“self-centralism” of the leading stratum of the proletariat, the rule of its majority within the confines of its own party organization’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 253). Within the party, the self-empowerment of the working class would need to find adequate expression. This position was based on Luxemburg’s conviction that ‘social democracy is not joined to the organisation of the proletariat. It is itself the proletariat’ (ibid.). While Lenin referred positively to the tradition of the Jacobins, who progressively limited the self-organisation of the people of Paris—starting with women’s organisations—over the course of their rule, Luxemburg wrote: ‘The social democratic movement is the first movement in the history of

110

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

class societies to be premised in its every aspect and in its whole development on the organization and the independent direct action of the mass’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 251). In our opinion, Luxemburg’s sense for the dangers of centralist organisational forms led her to under-appreciate that Lenin associated centrism with the fight against tendencies that seemed to him to be prepared to subordinate themselves to bourgeois liberalism. For him, ‘purity’ was more important than unity, even as that might mean organising with fewer people who nonetheless followed his position. Whereas Lenin hoped to ultimately win the masses through organising a disciplined, battle-ready cadre organisation, Luxemburg sought primarily to reach the masses directly via propaganda and agitation. As her focus was the rank and file, she was willing to put up with what she viewed as the faulty politics of the party leadership. Luxemburg understood class struggle, with all its defeats and small victories, as a space in which emancipation could be achieved and a ‘socialism of solidarity of the weak with each other’ could be experienced—before an actual socialism had been won. This shaped her view on questions of organisation and leadership. In her argument with Lenin, Luxemburg developed an insight whose enduring relevance should be heeded by all contemporary left social movements and parties. Referring to social democracy, Luxemburg wrote: The most important and profitable changes of the last decade were not “invented” by any of the movement’s leaders, let alone the leading organizations, but were in every case the spontaneous product of the unfettered movement.. […] The main features of the social democratic tactic of struggle are on the whole not “invented”: on the contrary, they are the consequence of a continuing series of great creative acts of experimental, often of spontaneous, class struggle. Here too the unconscious precedes the conscious, the logic of the objective historical process precedes the subjective logic of its agents. (Luxemburg 2004a, 254, 255)

With this in mind, Luxemburg turned towards the revolution in Russian. While she was extremely dissatisfied with developments in Germany, what was unfolding in the Tsarist empire filled her with hope. As she wrote in a December 1904 letter to the Dutch socialist Henriette Roland Holst: Tracking down instances of opportunist stupidity and repeating, parrotlike, our criticisms of them is for me not a satisfying form of labour; but rather, I am so thoroughly fed up with this duty that I prefer to remain

6

THE ELECTRIC AGE OF UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENTS …

111

silent in such cases. […] The only means of fighting opportunism in a radical way is to keep going forward oneself, to develop tactics further, to intensify the revolutionary aspects of the movement. Generally speaking, opportunism is a plant that grows in swamps, spreading quickly and luxuriantly in the stagnant water of the movement; when the current flows swiftly and strongly it [opportunism] dies away by itself. (Luxemburg 2011, 183)

Lessons from the 1905 Russian Revolution Just a few weeks after these lines were written, the first Russian Revolution erupted, gripping the entire Tsarist empire as well as Russian-occupied Poland. This would mark the most important turning point for Rosa Luxemburg’s subsequent life and work. As Donald E. Shepardson writes, ‘Luxemburg returned to Berlin on September 13, 1906, a different person than the one who had left nearly a year earlier. Her exposure to active revolutionaries and her experiences in Warsaw had increased her feelings of isolation within the SPD’ (Shepardson 1996, 53). This revolution convinced her that the days of calm were over. For her, 1905 marked a new epoch: ‘The Russian Revolution has closed an approximately sixtyyear period of peaceful parliamentary rule by the bourgeoisie. With the Russian Revolution, we enter a period of transition between capitalist and socialist society’ (Luxemburg 2019a, 476). Even a temporary takeover of political power by the socialist labour movement seemed possible to her. As she put it: Great revolutionary events have a certain peculiarity. No matter how much they can be foreseen and expected in broad outline, nevertheless, once they are present in all their complexity, in their specific shape and concrete form, they always confront us with a riddle like that of the sphinx, a lesson the sphinx wants us to grasp, absorb, and learn in every fibre of our being. (Luxemburg 2019b, 52)

Thus, the 1905 Russian Revolution became the focus of Luxemburg’s intellectual activity and the most important source of analysis. Time and again, she turned towards the histories of the English and French Revolutions. After reading F. A. Mignet’s work on the French Revolution, she wrote: ‘[…] The topic moved me deeply, I was overwhelmed by this grandiose, divine mass insanity. The history of the revolutions is surely the most interesting scholarly topic there is’ (Luxemburg 1982b, 343).

112

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

In direct opposition to German Social Democracy’s sense of its superiority, the 1905 Russian Revolution led Luxemburg to conclude that there was much to be learned from the Russian labour movement given that Russia was ‘so unpardonably late with its bourgeois revolution’ (Luxemburg 2008, 165). It could turn out to be the ‘vanguard’ of the international labour movement (Luxemburg 1972, 232), its deficit spun into an advantage. In the words of Ernst Mandel, the experiences gained enabled Luxemburg to ‘integrate her scattered criticisms into a systematic critique of “the tried and true tactics”’ of western social democracy (Mandel 1971). Triggered directly by the inter-imperial war between Russia and Japan, the revolution dramatically revealed the deep-seated global tensions existing at the turn of the twentieth century. It made clear the intersections between imperialism, war, the partial consolidation of capitalism in its metropoles and the colonisation of the periphery, as well as the connections between the national and social question, between the labour movement and peasant uprisings and between reaction and antisemitism. Against its backdrop, it became exceedingly obvious to Luxemburg that it was not enough to merely defend the theory and praxis of the Second International against an opportunistic adjustment to the given power relations on the one hand and a politics of monopolising social movements on the other. In the mass strikes above all, she saw a form of movement that appeared to elude in equal measure both tendencies. This propelled her independent search for a theory and praxis that would be able to intervene amidst these contradictions in a manner that was simultaneously emancipatory and revolutionary, a search that continues to this day. The 1905 Russian Revolution was so important for Luxemburg because new forms of practice grew out of it: ‘The Russian Social-Democracy is the first to whom has fallen the difficult but honorable task of applying the principles of Marx’s teaching not in a period of quiet parliamentary course in the life of the state, but in a stormy revolutionary period’ (Luxemburg 2004b, 204). The events in the Tsarist empire demonstrated again to Luxemburg that, in spite of what some in the SPD imagined, a ‘real revolution […] is never and can never become an artificial product of conscious planning, leadership, and propaganda’ (Luxemburg 2019c, 85), even if Marxist analysis had anticipated the occurrence of such a revolution thirty years in advance. For Luxemburg, the challenge for social democracy was to emerge in the revolutionary process itself:

6

THE ELECTRIC AGE OF UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENTS …

113

To win the leading position in the country where the revolution is going on, to skillfully make use of the first wins and losses in order to give guidance to the stream while in midstream oneself—that is the task of Social Democracy in revolutionary epochs. Not the beginning but the conclusion is what matters, and to directly affect the outcome of the revolutionary upsurge—that is the only goal that a political party can reasonably set for itself […]. (Luxemburg 2019d, 75)

She concentrated in her analyses not on the newly emerged soviets but rather on forms of mass struggle and above all on the mass strikes. This form of struggle did not play an important role in previous revolutions: Such a deadly weapon has not been available to any modern revolution until now. […] At present, in the Russian state, the general strike has become for the first time the initial phase of combat for this revolution, in which, also for the first time in history, the proletariat is going into battle as an independent class, conscious of its own separate interests. (Luxemburg 2019e, 104)

Luxemburg maintained that the 1905 Russian Revolution presented significant reversals: here, the essential social and political achievements of the labour movement were not won by pursuing a siege strategy but rather by going on the offensive—and by doing so with breathtaking rapidity. And whereas the labour movement had previously only had access to small, mostly illegal economic and political structures, now mass organisations were being formed in hardly any time at all. Her conclusion: ‘[It] is a totally mechanical and non-dialectical conception, that strong organisations must always precede the struggle. The opposite is true: organisations are born out of struggle, together with class enlightenment’ (Luxemburg 2019f, 213). Whereas Antonio Gramsci became a theorist of the war of position following the post-revolutionary experiences of the 1920s, Rosa Luxemburg developed after 1905 into the ‘theorist par excellence of the war of manoeuvre that always accompanies the […] real historical experience of the crisis-ridden collapse of the dominant socio-economic and political order’ (Deppe 1997, 18). At the same time, she began to focus less on the significance of fixed organisational structures—structures which take on particular importance in situations where decisions must be made, or when positions must be held in times of retreat and defeat. Seeking to combine the positions of Luxemburg and Lenin, Lukács wrote correctly that ‘Organisation is the form of mediation

114

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

between theory and practice. And, as in every dialectical relationship, the terms of the relation only acquire concreteness and reality in and by virtue of this mediation’ (Lukács 1971, 299). The organisational structures of a mass strike emerging from fundamental struggles are one thing, the structures of a party another. In the revolution of 1905, Luxemburg came to understand emancipatory politics as a ‘practical learning process of social masses, a learning process in which they become the subjects of their own liberation from immaturity, exploitation and oppression’ (Brangsch 2011, 92). Leadership, organisation and socialist theory should grow from the processes of working-class emancipation, referring to the working class while serving it and existing as its own creation (see Bellofiore 2013, 49f.). Moreover, Luxemburg did not view leadership, organisation and socialist theory as separate entities, but rather as different aspects of the same process. In the small Finnish spa town Kuokkala not far from Petersburg, having just been released from a hard, four-month prison sentence in Warsaw, Luxemburg wrote The Mass Strike, The Political Party and the Trade Unions while on assignment for the SPD leadership in Hamburg. In this analysis, she connected the experiences of the 1905 Russian Revolution with those in Western Europe and developed approaches for a new, offensive strategy of mass mobilisation. The text partially emerged out of intensive discussion with the very innermost circle of Bolshevik leadership: ‘Evening after evening she sat in Lenin’s ground-floor flat in the house of the Leiteisen family in Kuokkala and talked over the Russian revolution at length with Lenin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Bogdanov’ (Nettl 1966a, 356f.). As Karl Radek would later write in his capacity as a representative of the Bolsheviks: ‘This pamphlet means the laying of the foundations of a new phase of Social Democracy’ (Radek 1986, 27). It was at the same time a theoretical attempt to found a revolutionary praxis that would lead not to a rule over the people but rather to the self-emancipation of the people. As Luxemburg wrote: ‘Despite the existence of Social Democracy, the living substance of world history still remains the mass of the people, and only if a lively blood circulation takes place between the organisational kernel and the popular masses, only if the same pulse animates them, will Social Democracy prove itself capable of great historical actions’ (Luxemburg 1978b, 252). The essential feature of the Luxemburgian position is that which came to be referred to simplistically and sometimes derogatorily as spontaneism. Yet Luxemburg’s emphasis on spontaneity should not be understood as

6

THE ELECTRIC AGE OF UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENTS …

115

chaotic arbitrariness, but rather in a Kantian sense as free activity emerging from one’s own reason and enabling one to take initiative.1 Revolution was for her the process in which humans who are subjected to dependency relations begin together to take over the space of freedom (Vollrath 1973, 93f.). The labour movement was not simply declamatory; the masses were its actual historical actor. Through mass movement, she believed, workers constituted themselves as self-conscious, freely self-determining actors who brought their socialisation under their own control through concrete actions. For her, this is socialism as freedom in action and as a goal. Pozzoli is absolutely right to note that ‘The pamphlet on “The Mass Strike” marked the first time following Engels’s death that genuinely new occurrences were conceived of from a “Marxist” perspective’ (Pozzoli 1974, 17). In this, Luxemburg emerged as a ‘theorist of the class struggle’ (Howard 1974, 106). Luxemburg believed neither that the labour movement could be substituted by the democratic organisation of the working class in a trade union or party nor that a centralist cell should be in command. This did not stem from a rejection of organisation or of leadership but rather from her reflections on the labour movement’s experiences during its forty years of developing independent organisations. Luxemburg searched for ways out of the looming subordination of the movement for social emancipation to the interests of the organisations it had created and their leaders. She objected to the transformation of the relationship between the labour movement and social democracy into an oligarchic relationship of democratic or dictatorial representation in which the representatives would eventually be the decisive or even the sole actors (Michels 1915). During this period, Luxemburg’s conception of politics gained clear contours. Henceforth it revolved around self-empowerment through entirely public acting, attacking, parrying and learning. Remaining committed to the founding statement of the First International that ‘the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves’ (Marx 1985, 14), she set her sights on a thoroughly ‘active party concept’ in which ‘the leadership is expected to provide not the historical creative power but rather the pooling and strengthening of the creative impulses of social movements’ 1 ‘Should […] freedom be a property of certain causes of appearances, then that freedom must […] be a faculty of starting those events from itself (sponte)’ (cf. Vollrath 1973, 100; Kant 2004, 95).

116

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

(Haug 2001, 63). In contrast to many leaders of the Second International as well as the Bolsheviks, Luxemburg viewed the contradiction between worker self-organisation and the authority of parties, trade unions and leadership from below, from the perspective of workers’ social movements. Luxemburg regarded history as a great river, and parties and organisations as tanker and boats moving upon it along with both their would-be and genuine captains and crews—who, while by no means meaningless, are not the true driving force and are only capable of steering when they recognise the undercurrents and orient themselves accordingly. Real social movements were for her the actual source of the constant renewal of historical currents. According to Luxemburg, organisations ultimately emerge from the historical taking of action of social movements. ‘Since when were great historical movements, great peoples’ movements, conducted in backrooms?’ (Luxemburg 1979e, 172), she asked at the 1906 SPD conference in Mannheim, pointedly challenging the party’s entire understanding of its role, which in her view was ‘based upon the idea of the finely stage-managed march out of the small, welltrained part of the proletariat’ (Luxemburg 2008, 159). This idea rested ‘upon the illusion of the peaceful, “normal” period of bourgeois society’ was calculated for ‘a fight conducted exclusively on the basis of the bourgeois social order’ (Luxemburg 2008, 170). Inevitably, a separate bureaucratic class would form within the labour movement and the organisation would become self-serving. The task of social democracy and the organs of its leadership was to be the foremost part of the current, raising its strength, strengthening its direction, bringing to a head its determination to smash through the dams of capitalist society: To give the cue for, and the direction to, the fight; to so regulate the tactics of the political struggle in its every phase and at its every moment that the entire sum of the available power of the proletariat, which is already released and active, will find expression in the battle array of the party; to see that the tactics of the social democrats are decided according to their resoluteness and acuteness and that they never fall below the level demanded by the actual relations of forces, but rather rise above it—that is the most important task of the direct-ing body […]. (Luxemburg 2008, 149)

6

THE ELECTRIC AGE OF UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENTS …

117

For Luxemburg, rising to meet this task would require ‘total clarity’ on actual circumstances and prospects, the ‘democratisation of the entirety of party life’ and ‘more self-criticism’ (Luxemburg 1978c, 451). To sum up Luxemburg’s understanding of history and the socialist movement by way of metaphor, one might imagine large rivers, but certainly not the artificially straightened German ones which have been turned into tame streets of water. Instead, one should envision rivers which occasionally—as in a time lapse—jump their banks, sluggishly and exhaustedly flowing onto land, only to then cut through mountains and break forth into new realms before calmly and gradually coming to a standstill in large lakes, at which point they unexpectedly churn themselves up and embark on a powerful course all over again. Great woman of letters that she was, she put it thusly: The mass strike, as the Russian Revolution shows it to us, is such a changeable phenomenon that it reflects all phases of the political and economic struggle, all stages and factors of the revolution. Its adapt-ability, its efficiency, the factors of its origin are constantly changing. It suddenly opens new and wide perspectives on the revolution when it appears to have already arrived in a narrow pass and where it is impossible for anyone to reckon upon it with any degree of certainty. It flows now like a broad billow over the whole kingdom, and now di-vides into a gigantic network of narrow streams; now it bubbles forth from under the ground like a fresh spring and now is completely lost under the earth. Political and economic strikes, mass strikes and partial strikes, demonstrative strikes and fighting strikes, general strikes of individual branches of industry and general strikes in individual towns, peaceful wage struggles and street massacres, barricade fighting—all these run through one another, run side by side, cross one another, flow in and over one another—it is a ceaselessly moving, changing sea of phenomena. And the law of motion of these phenomena is clear: it does not lie in the mass strike itself nor in its technical details, but in the political and social proportions of the forces of the revolution. (Luxemburg 2008, 140f.)

In difference to many others, Rosa Luxemburg insisted on the necessity of an organisational form that was as free, democratic and as open to social movements as possible if society was to be moved in an emancipatory direction. Such an organisation, or a space for such organisations, must be capable of grasping the subterranean currents of society and of innovating if socialism were to become a reality. Neither transforming members

118

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

of a party into tools of the central party organ and getting them to submit to its ‘absolute and blind submission’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 252), nor demoting them to mere voters should be features of Social Democratic organisation. Rather, social democracy should constantly grow anew ‘from the elemental class struggle’ (ibid.). Peter Nettl is absolutely correct when he claims that ‘Rosa Luxemburg’s controlling doctrine was not democracy, individual freedom, or spontaneity, but participation—friction leading to revolutionary energy leading in turn to the maturity of class-consciousness and revolution’ (Nettl 1966b, 13).

Defeat as a Path to Victory The 1905 Russian Revolution showed active socialist revolutionaries that, in the light of the weakness of the Tsarist government and the lack of political will among bourgeois capitalist groups within the Tsarist empire to take the reigns themselves, the fall of Tsarism could be bound up with a takeover of power by social democracy in coalition with representatives of the peasantry. The Mensheviks warned that this might lead to catastrophe. A socialist government must implement socialist politics, they argued, yet the conditions in Russia were not yet ripe enough to do so, capitalism not yet fully developed. In contrast, Lenin and the Bolsheviks set their sights on a radical bourgeois-democratic revolution under socialist leadership that wouldn’t set any socialist goals beyond this. Its purpose would be to produce ‘transformations that can be carried out in a bourgeois society’ (Lenin 1962, 186) in strict distinction to socialist transformations. Trotsky disagreed with this and began to develop his concept of permanent revolution, assuming as he did ‘that the proletariat, on taking power, must, by the very logic of its position, inevitably be urged toward the introduction of state management of industry’ (Trotsky 1969, 67). Like Lenin, Trotsky or even Karl Kautsky, Luxemburg perceived the transitional character of the Russian Revolution. However, she emphasised a completely different aspect while drawing on the position she took against Eduard Bernstein in the revisionism debate. According to her, the Russian working class of course had to seize power. And precisely ‘if it proves itself up to its task, i.e., drives through its actions the course of revolutionary events to the outermost limit given the objective development of social relations, then it will almost inevitably be met at this limit by a great temporary defeat’ (Luxemburg 1972, 231). In her eyes, this defeat would be the result not of its flawed strategy but rather of its

6

THE ELECTRIC AGE OF UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENTS …

119

success! She assumed that revolution would depend ‘as much as possible on revolutionising the relations in the factory and in society’ so that ‘the bourgeoisie would be all the less capable of driving back that which had been achieved’ (Luxemburg 2015b, 208). Only decisive revolutionary action could stop reactionaries from taking the wheel of history after the revolution and turning it back to pre-revolutionary times. The ‘bourgeois republicanism in France’ was ‘the historical product of certain hopeless dictatorships of the proletariat’ (Luxemburg 2015c, 261), and liberalism would again gain strength if faced with ‘depriving the proletariat of its achievements’ (Luxemburg 2015c, 263). One may summarise Luxemburg’s analysis thusly: What would happen if the revolution were to fall back to or even behind its starting point, if, in other words, conditions more reactionary than before the revolution came to predominate or the blowback became permanent? Whether a revolution is deemed a success or failure revolves around this point. Therefore, Rosa Luxemburg advocated the revolution take a maximally leftist line all the way to a dictatorship of the proletariat—well aware that this would not be able to hold. According to her understanding, the function of this dictatorship was not foremost to unleash socialist elements but rather to cushion the blowback. In the Revolution of 1905, Luxemburg developed the concept of a kind of dual power. As she emphasised, the working class must be clear on the precise steps to be taken following a political victory so that ‘the fruit of its struggle’ wouldn’t be snatched away (Luxemburg 2015a, 16). For starters, a provisional revolutionary government would be needed in order for the working class to get ‘the material means and foundations of power in its own hands: military powers, finances, taxes and public assets’ (Luxemburg 2015a, 20). This government would have to fight the general chaos, ensure a constitutional convention—the constituent assembly—gets proclaimed, voted on and worked out while also keeping the forces of reaction ‘in check and holding the knife to its throat’ (Luxemburg 2015a, 23). The government would have to be decidedly socialist, a government of the ‘socialist proletariat’. In contrast, the constituent assembly would have to proceed from free elections involving the entire population. Thus, she concluded that: the Provisional Workers’ Government constituting the first power structure to emerge from the womb of the revolution, and the constitutional

120

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

convention elected by the entire population to work out the constitution under the protection and custody of the Provisional Government, are the organs that are called upon to implement the ambitions and tasks of the revolution and to introduce political freedom immediately following victory. (Luxemburg 2015a, 25)

Believing that socialists would not have a majority in the constituent assembly, she assumed there would need to be an extended period of time in which the struggle would not be able to ‘completely transition from the streets to the closed convention hall’ (Luxemburg 2015a, 35). Essentially predicting the Russian situation from October 1917 to January 1918, Luxemburg believed it was the task of the revolutionary government to call a constitutional convention, to secure its work and, having done so, to hand over power to parliament. What she did not anticipate was the decision of an extremely tight circle around Lenin in January 1918 to refuse to hand over power.2 Luxemburg’s scenario looked differently: Concretely, after the fall of tsarism, power will pass into the hands of the most revolutionary part of society, the proletariat, because the proletariat will take possession of all posts and keep watch over them until power is placed in the hands of those legally called upon to hold it—in the hands of the new government, which the Constituent [Assembly], as the legislative organ elected by the whole population, is alone able to determine. Now, it is a simple fact that it is not the proletariat that constitutes a majority in society, but the petty bourgeoisie and the peasantry, and that, as a consequence, it will not be the social democrats who form a majority in the Constituent, but the democratic peasants and petty bourgeois. We may lament this fact, but we will not be able to change it. (Luxemburg 2015b, 218)

Freedom for the Enemy In debates with political opponents in Polish Social Democracy who were committed to the goal of re-establishing the Polish state, and who she believed were prepared to suppress free discussion in pursuit of this goal, Luxemburg pointedly articulated an idea that would resurface in a marginal note in her text The Russian Revolution, which she wrote while 2 This topic will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 10.

6

THE ELECTRIC AGE OF UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENTS …

121

imprisoned in 1918: ‘Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently’ (Luxemburg 2004c, 305). This idea stands in tension to formulations such as ‘[Social Democracy] must think with each step that revolution is not a time to engage reaction in discussion, but rather a time to crush and overthrow it’ (Luxemburg 2015d, 209). How unrestricted freedom of the press and assembly for the enemy and the overthrow of said enemy should be conceptualised alongside each other remains an open question. Nonetheless, Luxemburg’s warning stands that if the enemy does not have free speech, true self-emancipation of the oppressed cannot exist. According to this position, if this emancipation is to be the own conscious act of self-enlightening humans in accordance with their goals and interests, then it becomes impossible when the necessary space for self-enlightenment is destroyed in the process. The reason which stems from free communication, from the open conflict of ideas and views, was more important for Luxemburg than the rationality which can grow out of the instrumental subordination to predetermined ‘correct’ goals. One could also say that the emancipatory journey was more important to her than the freedom promised at the destination. It follows that the use of the freedom of assembly and press are the most important things that enable the proletariat to achieve consciousness itself during struggles; thus, the proletariat fights for the right to assemble, to discuss its own concerns and to get to know its friends and enemies in freely published newspapers. If the first condition for the consciousness of the proletariat is forcing the government to hand over freedom of assembly, opinion and the press, then the second condition is the relentless use of this freedom, the full freedom of criticism and discussion amongst militant workers. Freedom of opinion and the press is the condition upon which the proletariat can achieve consciousness, yet the other is that the proletariat does not itself put this freedom in chains, that it doesn’t say, discussions are not permitted about this or about that. Enlightened workers around the world know this, and they always make efforts to defend even their worst enemies’ right to freely express their views. (Luxemburg 2015e, 152)

122

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Bibliography Bellofiore, Ricardo. 2013. Rosa Luxemburg - Kritik der politischen Ökonomie und die politische Perspektive. In Rosa Luxemburgs “Akkumulation des Kapitals”. Die Aktualität von ökonomischer Theorie, Imperialismuserklärung und Klassenanalyse, ed. Ingo Schmidt, 37–51. Hamburg: VSA. Brangsch, Lutz. 2011. Das Politikverständnis von Rosa Luxemburg: Soziales Lernen und politische Macht. In Zwischen Klassenstaat und Selbstbefreiung. Zum Staatsverständnis von Rosa Luxemburg, ed. Michael Brie and Frigga Haug, 92–144. Band 43. Baden-Baden: Nomos. Deppe, Frank. 1997. Zur Aktualität der politischen Theorie von Luxemburg und Gramsci. In Die Linie Luxemburg - Gramsci. Zur Aktualität und Historizität marxistischen Denkens. Argument Sonderband AS 159, ed. Argument, 14–32. Berlin: Argument. Haug, Wolfgang Fritz. 2001. Revolutionärer Determinismus. Notiz zum Fokus der Luxemburgschen Dialektik. In Rosa Luxemburg. Historische und aktuelle Dimensionen ihres theoretischen Werkes, ed. Klaus Kinner and Helmut Seidel, 53–65. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Howard, Dick. 1974. Theorie, Theoretiker und revolutionäre Praxis. In Rosa Luxemburg: oder die Bestimmung des Sozialismus, ed. Claudio Pozzoli, 94– 126. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Kant, Immanuel. 2004. Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, ed. and trans. Gary Hatfield. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Laschitza, Annelies. 2002. Im Lebensrausch, trotz alledem. Rosa Luxemburg. Eine Biographie. Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag. Lenin, V. I. 1962. Social-Democracy and the Provisional Revolutionary Government (1905). In Collected Works, vol. 8, 275–292. Moscow: Progress Publishers. Lenin, V. I. 1977. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back. The Crisis in Our Party. In Collected Works, vol. 7, 201–423. Moscow: Progress Publishers. Lukács, György. 1971. History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialects, trans. Rodney Livingstone. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1972. Abschließende Worte. Parteitag der Sozialdemokratischen Arbeiterpartei Russlands vom 13. Mai bis 1. Juni 1907 in London. In Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 2, 226–232. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1978a. Karl Marx (1913). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 3, 178– 184. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1978b. Taktische Fragen (1913). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 3, 246–258. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1978c. Imperialismus. Rede am 19. Mai 1914 in einer Versammlung des sozialdemokratischen Wahlvereins Charlottenburg. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 3, 450–451. Berlin: Karl Dietz.

6

THE ELECTRIC AGE OF UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENTS …

123

Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979a. Das belgische Experiment (1901/02). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.2, 212–219. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979b. Und zum dritten Male das belgische Experiment (1901/02). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.2, 229–248. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979c. Geknickte Hoffnungen (1903). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.2, 394–402. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979d. Organisationsfragen der russischen Sozialdemokratie (1903). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.2, 422–444. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979e. Rede zur Frage des Massenstreiks auf Parteitag der SPD in Mannheim vom 23. bis 26. September 1906. In Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 2, 171–173. Berlin: Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1982a. Brief an Mathilde und Emanuel Wurm vom 18. Juli 1906. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 2, 258–259. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1982b. Brief an Kostja Zetkin vom 26. Mai 1908. In Gesammelte Briefe, Bd. 2, 342–343. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2004a. Organizational Questions of Russian Social Democracy (1903). In The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, ed. Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, 248–265. New York: Monthly Review Press. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2004b. Address to the Fifth Congress of the Russian SocialDemocratic Labor Party (1907). In The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, ed. Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, 200–207. New York: Monthly Review Press. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2004c. The Russian Revolution (1918). In The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, ed. Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, 281–310. New York: Monthly Review Press. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2008. The Mass Strike (1906). In The Essential Rosa Luxemburg: Reform or Revolution and the Mass Strike, 111–181. Chicago: Haymarket Books. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2011. Letter to Henriette Roland Holst, December 17, 1904. In The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg, ed. Georg Adler, Peter Hudis, and Annelies Laschitza, trans. George Shriver, 181–185. London and New York: Verso. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2014a. Die neue Flottenvorlage (1899). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 6, 285–287. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2014b. Die Furcht vor dem Siege (1902). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 6, 246–258. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2015a. Zur Konstituante und zur Provisorischen Regierung. In Im Licht der Revolution. Zwei Texte von Rosa Luxemburg aus dem Jahre 1906 und Paralipomena zu Leben und Werk, ed. Klaus Kinner and Manfred Neuhaus, 15–54. Rosa-Luxemburg-Forschungsberichte, Heft 12. Leipzig: Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Sachsen. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2015b. Blanquismus und Sozialdemokratie (1906). In Arbeiterrevolution 1905/06. Polnische Texte. Herausgegeben von Holger Politt, 214–219. Berlin: Karl Dietz.

124

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Luxemburg, Rosa. 2015c. Lehren aus den drei Dumas (1908). In Arbeiterrevolution 1905/06. Polnische Texte. Herausgegeben von Holger Politt, 245–266. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2015d. Taktik der Revolution (1906). In Arbeiterrevolution 1905/06. Polnische Texte. Herausgegeben von Holger Politt, 204–209. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2015e. Kritik in der Arbeiterbewegung (1906). In Arbeiterrevolution 1905/06. Polnische Texte. Herausgegeben von Holger Politt, 151–154. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2019a. The Revolution in Russia (December 20, 1905). In The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg: Volume III, Political Writings 1, ed. Peter Hudis, Axel Fair-Schulz, and William A. Pelz, 472–476. London: Verso. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2019b. The Revolution in Russia (January 22, 1905). In The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg: Volume III, Political Writings 1, ed. Peter Hudis, Axel Fair-Schulz, and William A. Pelz, 51–58. London: Verso. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2019c. The Revolution in Russia (February 11–16, 1905). In The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg: Volume III, Political Writings 1, ed. Peter Hudis, Axel Fair-Schulz, and William A. Pelz, 84–92. London: Verso. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2019d. The Revolution in Russia (February 9 and 10, 1905). In The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg: Volume III, Political Writings 1, ed. Peter Hudis, Axel Fair-Schulz, and William A. Pelz, 75–83. London: Verso. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2019e. Under the Sign of Social Democracy (1905). In The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg: Volume III, Political Writings 1, ed. Peter Hudis, Axel Fair-Schulz, and William A. Pelz, 101–107. London: Verso. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2019f. Remarks at the Jena Congress on Relations Between the Party and Trade Unions, with Reference to the 1905 Revolution in Russia (1905). In The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg: Volume III, Political Writings 1, ed. Peter Hudis, Axel Fair-Schulz, and William A. Pelz, 205–213. London: Verso. Mandel, Ernest. 1971. Rosa Luxemburg and German Social Democracy, trans. Val Graham and Frederick LePlat. Marx, Karl. 1985. Provisional Rules of the Association (1864). In MECW , vol. 20, 14–16. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Michels, Robert. 1915. Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy. New York: Hearst’s International Library. Nettl, Peter J. 1966a. Rosa Luxemburg. In Two Volumes. Volume 1. London: Oxford University Press. Nettl, Peter J. 1966b. Rosa Luxemburg. In Two Volumes. Volume 2. London: Oxford University Press. Parvus, Alexander. 1896. Staatsstreich und politischer Massenstreik. Die Neue Zeit.

6

THE ELECTRIC AGE OF UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENTS …

125

Pozzoli, Claudio. 1974. Rosa Luxemburg als Marxist. In Rosa Luxemburg: oder die Bestimmung des Sozialismus, ed. Claudio Pozzoli, 9–20. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Radek, Karl. 1986. Leben und Kampf unserer Genossin Rosa Luxemburg (1919). In Rosa Luxemburg. Leben - Kampf - Tod, ed. Ernest Mandel and Karl Radek, 10–45. Frankfurt am Main: isp. Shepardson, Donald E. 1996. Rosa Luxemburg and the Noble Dream. New York: Peter Lang. Trotsky, Leon. 1969. The Permanent Revolution and Results and Prospects. New York: Merit. Vollrath, Ernst. 1973. Rosa Luxemburg’s Theory of Revolution. Social Research 40: 83–109.

CHAPTER 7

On the Defensive

We’re supposed to keep going around shouting ourselves hoarse, all just so that as many idiots as possible can get into the Reichstag only to make a mockery out of socialism. (Luxemburg 2001a, 127)

The SPD at the Crossroads 1907 represented the SPD strategists’ Waterloo, in the form of the Reichstag elections. The SPD had no serious programme with which to counter the ultra-nationalist campaigns of the bourgeois and monarchist parties, who positioned themselves as being against the supposed ‘riff-raff and betrayers of the nation’. The party, which had thus far been spoiled by success, lost numerous constituencies and mandates, despite gaining additional votes in absolute terms. The alternative proletarian world had, for the first time, reached its limits, which were increasingly being reinforced by the Wilhelmine social majority. The governing politicians had successfully managed to plant the dream of ‘a place in the sun’, which was tied up with the nationalist obsession of the time, in the hearts and minds of the majority society. This had also had effects on the proletarian milieu. The SPD leadership had to realise the limits of their alternative proletarian world—which lay precisely in the broader social context in which this world developed. The two worlds could only co-exist as long as they remained closed off from one another. Since the 1880s however, © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 M. Brie and J. Schütrumpf, Rosa Luxemburg, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67486-1_7

127

128

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

the majority society—previously always hermetically sealed off on its ‘downward’ side—had successfully sought to enlist the proletarian classes through ideological integration, that is to say through nationalism. The elections of 1907 clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of this strategy in limiting and pushing back the influence of social democracy. Strategically, this implied a failure of the social democratic tactics developed to overthrow capitalism. Theory and practice were in constant tension. Theoretically, the key issue at stake was a comprehensive overcoming of capitalism and thus a socialist ideology with which the SPD leadership expected to bring about a high level of cohesion. The outcome of the ‘revisionism debate’ had once again highlighted the importance of this matter. In practice however, the party engaged in compromises and an increasingly non-confrontational parliamentarism—a strategy which was far less dangerous for its organisations. In the last instance, the votes of a steadily growing proletarian society were meant to overrule the traditional majority society, thus bringing about socialism in a peaceful transition. By 1907 at the latest, the SPD leadership realised that their practical understanding was wrong and that they would never gain the majority of votes of both societies. The propagated theoretical framework that did not rule out a revolution was, however, not an option that fit with their political practice. There was a choice between two scenarios: either to lead an offensive battle for socialism with a group of socialists which was stagnating, and indeed strategically becoming smaller—this was the demand articulated by Rosa Luxemburg and the left. This strategy however ran the risk of losing influence over the sections of the party’s supporters that were turning to nationalism, and of a dismantling of the power the organisation had built up thus far. The other option was to quietly set aside all previously-held positions and change direction. The SPD leadership chose the latter. As long as they were still strong enough, they would aim to insert their own alternative society into bourgeois society and thus at least be able to share power. This naturally entailed that the overthrow of the monarchy and of capitalism was no longer the primary goal; instead, the aim was now merely containment. Initially, almost nothing appeared to change from the outside; internally, however, the party was transformed almost totally. The path for this course had already been laid out at the SPD’s 1906 party conference in Mannheim when Kautsky’s attempt to officially subordinate the pro-SPD trade unions to the party was thwarted (Shepardson 1996, 55). This spelled failure for the demand to use mass strikes in Prussia, the

7

ON THE DEFENSIVE

129

largest country in the German Empire, to win universal and equal male suffrage. The first to sense this reorientation was Kautsky, Luxemburg’s longtime mentor and confidant, whose pamphlet The Road to Power: Political Reflections on Growing Into the Revolution (Kautsky 1909) was pulled from sale behind his back by the SPD executive committee when it appeared in January 1909. The executive had long been staffed by a majority of members who—even if it may not have appeared so from the outside—stood for ‘growing into socialism’, and who sought to hinder the dissemination of any sort of revolutionary propaganda. Kautsky put it baldly, describing them as ‘puffed up, dull-witted upstarts’ (Kautsky 1972, 132)—and fought to have a second edition released, but ultimately still made some concessions to his opponents insofar as he made slight changes and added a sentence to the preface explaining that the party was not responsible for the text. In the eyes of the SPD leadership, by 1907 the socialist-internationalist left had lost its function as the guaranteed provider of a uniting ideology. Many on the left, unable to cope with their slow but steady isolation, gave up on their beliefs and became ‘party soldiers’. This was the first instance of a phenomenon which is still bemoaned today: a tendency among most leftists not to pursue a revolutionary-socialist politics which aims to overthrow capitalism, but instead to just ‘get on with life’ at a certain point in their lives, claiming merely to follow leftist politics. After 1907, the left wing of the SPD shrank to a residual few unwilling to capitulate. From 1911 onwards, a ‘Vanguard of the Upright’ began to form around Luxemburg and Franz Mehring, which Karl Liebknecht also joined following the outbreak of World War I. Other well-known leftists such as Heinrich Schulz, the founder of the party’s academy, ultimately succumbed to nationalism. The SPD made its last intervention into ‘politics in the grand style’ in 1910, partaking in the struggles against the three-class franchise system. But the issue became so tense that open confrontations between ‘the street’ and the ruling regime flared up to the point where the SPD leadership, afraid of what its own courage might lead to, broke off the struggle. As a counter to Luxemburg and her friends’ calls for a continuation of the policy of taking the struggle to the opponent, Kautsky developed a theory of his own: with the emergence of new middle classes—people in white-collar work and the professions—a new liberalism was supposedly arising that, unlike traditional liberalism, which tended towards the right,

130

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

would—if the SPD continued to practice a politics of compromise—turn towards the workers’ movement. The SPD took this restrained line into the 1912 Reichstag elections, forming the largest faction in den German parliament. After the election, the party became even more prepared to be flexible in its politics. The party leadership felt validated, and weaned the party off its stance of resistance to such a degree that after 4 August 1914 and its acceptance of the path to war abroad and truce at home, critical voices mostly fell silent of their own accord; by 1917 the ‘remainder’ had been ‘purged’, including Kautsky, who had gone along with most things, if not everything.

Against ‘Nothing-but-Parliamentarism’ and ‘Nothing-but-Action’ In this time of covert changes in the SPD, Rosa Luxemburg had already become less involved in the party than she had been prior to her travels to revolutionary Russian-occupied Poland. In the face of the revolutionary battles in Russia, in particular the mass strike, she had abandoned a number of orthodox Marxist positions. It was her relationship to proletarian organisation in particular that had fundamentally changed. In the Marxist canon, a strong organisation was regarded as the quintessential prerequisite for any type of action, especially revolutionary action. Luxemburg now came to believe that the organisational structure of the SPD had become a hindrance to revolutionary action. This was because the party leadership regarded actions as a threat to the existence of its organisations, and valued protecting them from a crushing by the police state above actions against the majority of society. This was already the case before 1907, and definitely the case thereafter. In Russia, she had experienced how organisational structure developed out of revolutionary action, not least the mass strike; indeed, how action preceded organisation. Armed with the notion of the political mass strike, she had come to the SPD party conference of 1906 and had failed utterly. In retrospect, the pamphlet she had developed especially for the conference—‘The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions’ became the theoretical basis for the left within the SPD becoming an independent entity, although Luxemburg had intended precisely the opposite: not to separate from the SPD but rather to win over the party as a whole for a revolutionary politics. If necessary, this could, in her view, have

7

ON THE DEFENSIVE

131

been limited to a mobilisation of the party base against their increasingly conservative leadership. In the context of a social-democratic understanding of politics, Rosa Luxemburg, with her advocacy of political mass strikes, dared to raise a highly contentious issue. The demand for mass or general strikes was considered in social-democratic circles as being an expression of anarchism, an aberration which was to be opposed. In the 1870s, Karl Marx had hopelessly fallen out with Michael Bakunin, a Russian socialist who had been on the barricades in Dresden during the revolution of 1848. Marx believed that the liberation of the working class from exploitation and oppression was grounded in historical regularities which were a product of economic conditions. A will to change was not enough on its own. A revolutionary politics required the analysis of such regularities and the appropriate action necessary in order to consciously speed up the evolution towards a society without exploitation and oppression. Bakunin, on the other hand, understood socialism from a moral and ethical standpoint and placed the individual and his or her liberation at the core. For him, the will to action—nurtured by an awareness of the glaring injustices produced by capitalism—and political agitation were important elements of revolutionary politics. Anarchists wanted to use strikes not just as a weapon in the economic battle between labour and capital, as the unions did, but in the political arena as well. A few even hoped that a general strike would lead to a collapse of the entire system. When considering Marx and Bakunin, and even more so the ideological standpoints held by their disciples, that of so-called scientific socialism and a libertarian socialism (also referred to as anarchism), respectively, several irreconcilable differences become immediately apparent. Objectively speaking, there were in fact a number of similarities between the two sides, but these were deliberately relegated to the background. Instead the hostility between the two ageing men exacerbated their undeniable differences and thus burdened the left with an absurd schism that persists to the present day. Both sides were hardly different as far as their fundamental goals were concerned; the real differences lay in the issue of how these were to be achieved. This was the initial dispute which in the course of the twentieth century was to divide the left into ever-smaller groups and subgroups—into the Leninists and their splinter groups, the Trotskyites with even more splinter groups, the Maoists… and so on ad infinitum. Luxemburg was spared all of this. She experienced, in all innocence, merely the beginnings of these absurd developments. She also did not

132

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

try to overcome the division between Marxists and anarchists—a division which would take on genocidal dimensions in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) when Soviet Marxism completely converged with Stalinism. Instead, Luxemburg maintained a verbal dissociation from anarchism all her life—indeed, the more vociferously the closer she grew to it. Her plea for more action, less time spent fine-tuning the organisation, with its growing bureaucracy, and in particular her demands for mass strikes were interpreted as her wanting to smuggle anarchism into social democracy and thus jeopardising everything that had been achieved. Luxemburg was able to withstand all these charges, albeit at the cost of politically isolating herself for years. These were the years preceding World War I, in which Kautsky, her closest ally in German Social Democracy, was continuously inventing new Marxist theories in order to justify the SPD executive’s politics of accommodation with the Wilhelmine regime. This led to the two of them growing increasingly distant, and Luxemburg coming to find ‘Marxism’ to be a dirty word. Although she had started off as a loyal Marxist in the social democracy movement, she had hardly referred to herself as such—this was not the done thing in the parties of the Second International. In the first decade of the nineteenth century, she had then abandoned most, if not all of the dogmas of Kautskian Marxism and had found her own path to Marx’s work and the application of his method. Hardly any of her peers could compete with her in this regard (certainly none of those who took over the German Communist Party after 1923, which had been co-founded by Luxemburg in 1918, such as Ruth Fischer, Ernst Thälmann and Walter Ulbricht). From 1910 onwards, she used the terms ‘Marxists’ and ‘Marxism’ mainly in inverted commas and with a negative connotation. Even though the idea of the SPD voting for the war bonds on 4 August 1914 continued to be unimaginable for her right up until the last moment, her vision was growing ever more sober. In 1913, she summed up the parliamentary successes of the German Social Democrats thus: In fifty years of exemplary labour, the Social Democrats have excavated from the stony earth [of parliamentarism] most of what was there that would either be of tangible, material benefit to the working class or assist in the process of its enlightenment. The recent, major victory of our party has now made it clear for all to see that in an era of imperialist delirium and parliamentary impotence a 110-strong Social Democratic faction is in

7

ON THE DEFENSIVE

133

a position to excavate less, in terms of either social reforms or agitation, than was formerly achievable by a faction of one quarter that size. And the present crux of Germany’s internal political development, the Prussian franchise system, has, by becoming hopelessly entrenched, destroyed all prospects of realising parliamentary reform via the mere pressure of electoral actions. In Prussia, no less than in the Empire, the Social Democrats, with all of their power, find themselves impotently pressed up against the barrier that Lassalle described way back in 1851 as follows: ‘A (legislative) assembly has never and will never overthrow existing conditions. All that such an assembly has ever done and been capable of is to proclaim the conditions existing outside of its doors, to sanction an overthrow of society that had already been achieved outside, and to work out its particular consequences, laws, etc. But such an assembly will be eternally powerless to overthrow the society that it represents.’ We, however, have arrived a stage of development where the most urgent, most peremptory defensive demands of the proletariat – universal suffrage in Prussia, a people’s militia in the Empire – amount in fact to an overthrow of existing Prussian and German class relations. If the working class wishes to assert its core interests today, in parliament, then it must carry out a real revolution ‘outside’. If it wishes to return parliamentarism to political fertility, then it must use extra-parliamentary actions to lead the masses themselves onto the political stage. (Luxemburg 1978a, 222f.)

When, during World War I, Karl Kautsky went as far as explaining the SPD’s truce with the warring German empire [‘Burgfrieden’] from within a Marxist framework, Luxemburg could merely pour scorn on such an ‘ism’: ‘German Social Democrats, with the outbreak of the war, hurried to grace the foray of German imperialism with an ideological shield unearthed from the junk room of Marxism; they declared it the liberation campaign against Russian Tsarism that our past masters had yearned for’ (Luxemburg 2004, 298). Ultimately, the state that the Social Democratic Party was in drove her to cynicism—even though it didn’t really suit her: Associations, executive offices, conferences, general assemblies, ledgers, member rolls: that is ‘the party’ according to the Haase comrades no less than to the Scheidemann ones. Neither group notices that associations, executive offices, member rolls and ledgers turn into worthless rubbish the very moment that the party ceases to pursue a politics that flows from its essence. Neither group notices that their spat over the dividedness or unity of German Social Democracy is a pointless exercise, because German

134

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Social Democracy, as a whole, no longer exists at all. Let us imagine that one fine morning in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, this most venerable temple of the Christian faith, this most sumptuous of all monuments to religious culture, instead of Catholic mass, a – the quill almost baulks to write the words – well, a shameless orgy as might be witnessed in a brothel were unleashed before all present. Let us imagine something even more appalling; let us suppose that at the orgy the priests retained the cassocks, the vestments, and the censers that they had earlier used to celebrate High Mass. Would Saint Peter’s Basilica still be a church, or would it be something else entirely? The fine walls would, it is true, still be the same, the altars and the chasubles would still be the old ones, but taking one look inside anybody would shudder, recoil, and in shock ask: What on earth has become of the church? (Luxemburg 1974a, 233)

The years immediately following the first Russian revolution saw Rosa Luxemburg push increasingly hard and increasingly desperately against the passivity of the SPD with respect to imperialism, militarism and the authoritarian and quasi-feudal structures of the German empire. She was stunned by ‘the fact that the most powerful proletarian organization in the world, having reached the milestones of two-thirds of a million politically organized members, two-and-a-quarter million unionized workers, and three-and-a-quarter million voters, is now poised to declare that they cannot implement the decisions made by the international congress’ (Luxemburg 1972a, 275). She always believed that with the strengthening of the social democracy movement, ‘the enlightened working class’ would take ‘its destiny, its leadership of the overall movement, and the setting of the pathway forward into its own hands’ (Luxemburg 1972b, 280) and that it needed to become aware of the party’s Reichstag leadership muzzling the broader party on these issues. She was vehemently opposed to Kautsky’s ‘strategy of attrition’, which she saw as nothing more than passive apologia: ‘All that Kautsky is capable of suggesting as a course of action is a kind of nothing-but-parliamentarism’ (Luxemburg 1978b, 316). Luxemburg campaigned hard for a commitment to finally push through universal suffrage in Prussia, agitated for a republic in order to end the dominance of the clique surrounding the Kaiser and the alliance between the Junkers and big business, and demanded that German workers not take up arms against their class brothers should war break out. This led to her being sentenced to fourteen months in prison. Although this meant that her popularity among workers in Germany rose,

7

ON THE DEFENSIVE

135

she lost all institutional influence inside the SPD. The ‘swamp’ of the party, according to Luxemburg, was now turning against the left (Luxemburg 1978c, 352). Her ability to publish in the party’s journals and newspapers was increasingly restricted. The party organisation positioned itself between Luxemburg and the public and made the anti-imperialist policies she demanded and ‘the actual public presence of the masses, [with] their own political actions, mass demonstrations, and mass strikes’ (Luxemburg 1978d, 194), practically impossible. In 1913, she warned the SPD that ‘the social democracy movement has a historic calling to be the vanguard of the proletariat. As the party of the working class, it should lead the charge. Should the social democracy movement fancy itself the sole agent of history, however, that the working class is nothing on its own and must first be transformed into a party before it can act, then it could easily transpire that the social democracy movement becomes an obstruction to the class struggle and, just when the time is right, be forced to chase after the working class, dragged, against its will, from battle to battle’ (Luxemburg 1978e, 254). She went on to predict that the political standpoint of the SPD’s parliamentary group would ultimately lead to them supporting the financing of a war, should one break out (see Luxemburg 1978f, 341). The calls to increase the ‘masses’ capacity to act’ in the months leading up to the outbreak of World War I were met with broad approval among the party base but failed to make an immediate impact on SPD policy. Luxemburg’s criticism of Lenin’s authoritarian tendencies was already well known in 1903, and culminated in her critique of the establishment of a Bolshevik dictatorship in 1917/1918. The acuity and prescience of this critique was however primarily based on her own experiences with the German social democratic movement. In February 1915, Luxemburg observed the paradoxical nature of the self-abandonment of the most successful proletarian party in history: Never before—for as long as there has been a history of class struggle, for as long as there have been political parties—never before has there been a party that, in this way, after fifty years of uninterrupted growth, after achieving a first-rate position of power, after assembling millions around it, has so completely and ignominiously abdicated as a political force within twenty-four hours, as the German Social Democrats have done. Precisely because they were the best-organized and best-disciplined vanguard of the

136

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

International, the present-day collapse of socialism can be demonstrated by the example of the Social Democrats. (Luxemburg 2000)

Ten years prior to the fateful August of 1914, Luxemburg had already identified ‘the introduction of a regular trade-union officialdom’, which was mirrored in the parliamentarisation of the social democratic movement’s senior leadership and the development of party bureaucrats. She saw these as being a ‘necessary evil’ and warned that ‘at a certain stage of organization and when the conditions have reached a certain degree of maturity’ these ‘necessary means of promoting trade-union growth become, on the contrary, obstacles to further development’ (Luxemburg 2008, 177). The parliamentary and unionised forms of the struggle amid ossified conditions that only allowed for slow evolution would, she argued, increasingly be perceived as the only forms possible, while the organisations related to these would be ‘gradually transformed from a means to an end into ends in themselves, precious thing[s] to which the interests of the struggles will [often] be made subordinate’ (Luxemburg 2008, 177). Luxemburg believed that the social democratic movement, fearing that it would otherwise call the outcomes of prior development into question—its position in parliament, or the level of union organisation— would eschew more aggressive means at the very moment in which they were most necessary. With the justification that they were yet to secure a parliamentary majority, social democrats would give up on the most minimal of their demands; with the argument that they were yet to completely organise all workers and were unable to compensate every striking worker from the strike fund, decisive action would be blocked in situations where it ought to be on the agenda. It thus appeared that the larger the means of organisational power of the German working class, the less possible it was to use them in political and social class struggle: ‘The more our organizations grow, comprising hundreds of thousands and even millions of people, the more centralism necessarily takes hold. Through this, however, the low level of intellectual and political content, initiative, and resolve typically handled by the organizations in the day-to-day dealings of the party falls entirely into the hands of the small councils that head them: the association boards, district executives, and parliamentary groups. All that remains for the great swathes of members are the duties of paying membership fees, of handing out flyers, of voting, of transporting ballots, of signing people up

7

ON THE DEFENSIVE

137

for newspaper subscriptions and similar tasks’ (Luxemburg 1978e, 252f.). For Luxemburg, the ‘vital issue for the social democracy movement’ was to ensure ‘that the political thinking and the will of the party’s base remain constantly alert and active, and that they augment its ability to be active’ (Luxemburg 1978g, 39). She saw this as the basic requirement for the necessary change in strategy. She wanted their quantitative gains be transformed into qualitative ones that would go beyond the ‘framework of bourgeois parliamentarianism’ (Luxemburg 1978a, 222) and to see the mass strike become the ‘praxis of the proletariat’ in the ‘phase of the proletarian masses’ independent action’ (Luxemburg 1978e, 247). When the SPD’s parliamentary group discussed the issue of mass strike on 14 January 1914 and Luxemburg put forward her position, the call for aggressive promotion of a mass strike as a weapon in the broader struggle was rejected (by 52 votes to 37, with 11 abstaining) and the issue was referred to a commission for further scrutiny (see Laschitza 2016, 44–46). The SPD had given up on all forms of resistance to the German Empire long before August 1914, however. It was no longer willing to fight; it was not its prior enemies but the party itself that had become depleted, with Luxemburg openly speaking of a ‘parliamentarian cretinism’ (Luxemburg 2001b, 202). In 1913, anarchist Erich Mühsam wrote of Luxemburg that ‘the remainder of the spirit, aggression, and idealism that lives on in her party has almost completely concentrated itself around one woman… a woman to whose brilliance and uprightness of character I must despite my diverging opinion respectfully tip my hat’ (quoted in Geide 1995, 138).

The Great War and the Search for a Strategic Response August 1914 came as a shock for the European left. They had been preparing for the moment of world war in congresses and in appeals for over a decade, only to prove incapable of resisting the ruling powers when the moment of truth arrived. It was as if the SPD juggernaut had made an abrupt U-turn at the behest of the parliamentary group. But this shift in position was in fact the result of extensive planning. This was already obvious in 1913, when the SPD’s parliamentary group voted for the bill to fund the expansion of the army, with a majority of the party conference later approving this in 1914. After a considerable ‘incubation period’, the

138

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

power relations within the SPD had decisively shifted to the right (Anton 2018, 82). The parliamentary group’s iron discipline kept MPs who in August 1914 wanted to vote against the war budget, or at least abstain, under control. The pariah-like SPD caterpillar, eternal party of opposition, now emerged from its chrysalis as a party committed to actively propping up the German Empire. This active participation in government, however, initially meant helping prepare the transition to a war economy, which also involved disciplining workers and soldiers. The party’s organisational power triumphed over the autonomous activity of the masses invoked by Luxemburg. What hit Luxemburg hardest was the shutting down of the SPD as an independent ‘factor of power’ and the moral defeat, the betrayal of the ideals which the social democratic movement was supposed to stand for. In Frankfurt am Main during September 1913, Luxemburg explained that ‘If it is presumed that we will raise the murder weapons against our French or other foreign brothers, we answer: No, we will not do this’. For this, she was sentenced in February 1914 to a year in prison. However, as the sentence did not enter into effect immediately, she and her lawyer embarked on a lecture tour though Germany’s major cities during which she warned of the coming war and drew attention to brutal harassment in German barracks. This led to another indictment, yet when her lawyer announced on the first day of the trial that he was inviting 30,000 witnesses of soldier abuse to take the stand, the trial was suspended. World War I began two months later. On the evening of 4 August 1914, the day on which the SPD politicians in the Reichstag voted to support war credits, Luxemburg wanted to commit suicide out of protest against the war. However, her friends were able to intervene in time and stop her. Instead, more than 200 telegrams were sent across the German Empire to figures of the SPD’s left wing imploring them to sign a statement against the war. Only one responded: Clara Zetkin, who declined to do so. Luxemburg and her remaining handful of followers in Berlin stood completely alone. They began to organise illegal meetings and distribute forbidden materials. Luxemburg would not have had to serve the oneyear prison sentence to which she was sentenced in Frankfurt am Main, for at the start of the war, the Kaiser had issued amnesty for all who had been sentenced for political reasons. However, in order to be eligible for this amnesty, it was required to formally petition the Kaiser. As Luxemburg

7

ON THE DEFENSIVE

139

sat in Russian prison in 1906, she did not petition the czar, and she was not about to do so to the German Kaiser in 1914. On 18 February 1915, she was arrested to serve her sentence. While in prison, Luxemburg continued—behind the backs of her guards—to compose anti-war materials, which were regularly smuggled out by confidantes. During this time, she also wrote a number of scholarly works as well as the Junius Pamphlet , in which she settled her scores with the SPD. This text was published in Switzerland in 1916. From her release in mid-February 1916 until she was imprisoned again that July, Luxemburg attended more illegal gatherings. At a public protest against the war at Potsdamer Platz on 1 May 1916, Karl Liebknecht was arrested and later sentenced to jail, while Luxemburg managed to escape to safety with the help of friends. After eventually being arrested again until revolution arrived in Berlin on 9 November 1918, Luxemburg was held in ‘protective custody’ by the military administration, which exercised domestic power during the war—without any charge or conviction, she was first imprisoned in Wronke bei Posen (today Poznan, ´ Poland), then in Breslau (today Wrocław, Poland). Although stomach ulcers took a significant toll on her health during this time, she continued to write articles against the war, which were published in the Spartacus Letters, an illegal magazine produced and run by Leo Jogiches, and in Der Kampf , a censored weekly paper based in Duisburg. Rosa Luxemburg understood the socialist idea as a moral principle to be preserved undamaged at all times. For her, a discredited socialist idea meant the end of any socialist movement. With her—evidently hopeless— struggle against the war, she attempted to preserve the credibility of the socialist idea, and hence, of its moral principle. A close examination of Luxemburg’s statements and articles in the months following the outbreak of World War I reveals a stark contrast to the actions of Lenin. Lenin needed only hours, if not mere minutes, to recover from the shock and recognise the catastrophe as a possible opportunity. While Luxemburg—like Lenin—was incensed by the betrayal and—unlike him—primarily focussed on the murder, barbarism and backward step for civilisation the war would mean, Lenin immediately began studying the strategic options that would result from Russia’s foreseeable defeat in a war against Germany. At the forefront of his mind was the fact that Russia’s defeat at the hands of Japan in 1904–1905 was the precursor to the first Russian revolution. Lenin began to develop all of the elements which would result in his unconventional strategic capacity

140

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

for intervention in 1917 and 1918 (cf. Brie 2019). As Hannah Arendt has written, Luxemburg refused ‘categorically, from beginning to end, to see in war anything but the most terrible disaster, no matter what its eventual outcome—the price in human lives, especially in proletarian lives, was too high in any event. Moreover, it would have gone against her grain to look upon revolution as the profiteer of war and massacre—something which didn’t bother Lenin in the least’ (Arendt 1970, 53). Until at least the beginning of 1918, Luxemburg’s writings contain no thorough attempts to think through the possible scenarios that might emerge at the end of the war and the strategic options available to the German left (let alone the left in Poland). Lenin’s instrumental approach was alien to her. Tradition has it that following the execution of his beloved brother Alexander, whom he revered, Lenin was alleged to have said: ‘Give me a party and I will turn Russia upside down’. Luxemburg saw things differently: through her actions and writings, she sought to encourage and galvanise the working class, inspire them to take matters into their own hands. To her, as much as the system of public ownership, this was at the core of what socialism was about. She saw this system merely as a means with which to enable the self-governance of the working class in all areas of life. Luxemburg wanted to unleash the energy of self-empowerment, while Lenin sought to harness it as strictly as possible with the goal of seizing political power led by a disciplined party organisation. Luxemburg’s categorical rejection of the idea of leaving the SPD in autumn 1914 was a result of this radical democratic stance. Around this time, she wrote to Kostja Zetkin that ‘I laughed at hearing of your “withdrawal” from the party. You overgrown child, do you perhaps also wish to “withdraw” from humanity?’ (Luxemburg 1987a, 7). In another letter she wrote that the worst possible workers’ party was better than no workers’ party at all (Luxemburg 1993, 177). She wanted to win over the masses of workers organised within the SPD to a different kind of politics, not subject them to the discipline of another party. She also resisted the Spartacus League’s imminent split from the USPD (Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany), even in autumn 1918. She wanted to stay with the majority in order to change them: ‘It is not enough that a handful of people have the best ideas and already know how the masses should be lead. These masses of people must be mentally wrested back from the traditions of the last fifty years—they must be freed from them. This can only be achieved through the movement as a whole undertaking

7

ON THE DEFENSIVE

141

a large process of constant and unsparing internal self-critique’ (Luxemburg 1974b, 274). For a long time, she was unwilling to accept that this might forcibly necessitate an organisational break. In addition, she worried that a number of organisational mergers ‘would leave the few people capable of action with their hands tied’ (Luxemburg 1987b, 93). Luxemburg was unsure how things should proceed both during and after the war. She concentrated on developing suggestions for a new International, but was largely unable to anticipate concrete courses of action in the open-ended situations that might arise. She confessed that ‘[e]verything is still in the process of moving and shifting, and the giant landslide seems to have no end whatever, and on such churned-up and fluctuating ground it is a devilishly difficult task to decide strategy and organize the battle’ (Luxemburg 2011, 351). This broad eschewal of a strategic, instrumental review of opportunities for action and the refusal to create a distinct party until 1918 proved fatal in the November revolution. While the workers’ and soldiers’ councils saw the SPD and USPD as equally valid social democratic parties which could form a provisional government, the Spartacists Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were seen primarily as individuals —be they loved and admired or hated—who did not embody an organised mass left-wing force. In this respect they were nonexistent, which continued to have an effect up until the January Uprising in 1919. It quickly became evident that leadership without an organisation amounted to very little, and that there was in fact little in the way of force for the organised counter-revolution to counter. Without organisations, the self-organisation of the masses is too volatile. The direct appeal to a broad public can produce a profoundly moral effect, but in critical moments where action is necessary, just as in the quieter periods, organisations are of critical importance. In her critique of ‘organizational cretinism’, Luxemburg neglected to include a positive analysis of organisational power. Peter Nettl is right when he notes that ‘[h]er disregard, even contempt, for the problems and techniques of organization can have no place in highly organized societies’ (Nettl 1966, 6). In the dark years of World War I, in which she spent long periods locked up in the Kaiser’s prisons, Luxemburg was absolutely convinced of one thing: this defeat of the social democracy movement, this worldhistorical catastrophe of a war between imperialist states, would produce a counter-reaction that would place socialism firmly on the agenda. In the ‘Social Democratic Correspondence’ of 27 August 1914, her only avenue of publication at the time, she wrote: ‘While today still mute and crushed

142

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

by the inconceivable, the people of tomorrow will draw themselves up and recognize that a society which contained such horror in its bosom is untenable. A social order that leads to chaos will, sooner or later, perish by the same chaos. A descent into barbarism or a re-birth through a systematically organized social order based on solidarity between peoples—these are the options presented to all civilized nations by the current world war, regardless of how it ends’ (Luxemburg 2017, 893).

Bibliography Anton, Bernward. 2018. Wolfgang Heine und die “Erfindung” der Burgfriedenspolitik. In Weltkrieg. Spaltung. Revolution: Sozialdemokratie 1916–1922, ed. Uli Schöler and Thilo Scholle, 73–85. Bonn: J. H. W. Dietz. Arendt, Hannah. 1970. Rosa Luxemburg: 1871–1919. In Men in Dark Times, 33–56. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World. Brie, Michael. 2019. Rediscovering Lenin: Dialectics of Revolution and Metaphysics of Domination. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Geide, Peter. 1995. Rosa Luxemburg und die Weimarer Linke. In Rosa Luxemburg, ed. Kristine von Soden, 138–143. Berlin: Elefanten Press. Kautsky, Karl. 1909. The Road to Power. Chicago: Samuel A. Bloch. Kautsky, Karl. 1972. Brief an Hugo Haase vom 9 März 1909. In Der Weg zur Macht: Politische Betrachtungen über das Hineinwachsen in die Revolution, ed. Georg Fülberth. Frankfurt am Main: Europäische Verlagsanstalt. Laschitza, Annelies. 2016. Vorwort. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 7, Rosa Luxemburg, 7–72. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1972a. Das Begräbnis der Maifeier (1909). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 2, 269–273. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1972b. Der politische Führer der deutschen Arbeiterklasse (1910). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 2, 279–288. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1974a. Offene Briefe an Gesinnungsfreunde (1917). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, 232–236. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1974b. Rückblick auf die Gothaer Konferenz (1917). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, 270–274. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1978a. Lassalles Erbschaft (1913). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 3, 220–224. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1978b. Das Offiziösentum der Theorie (1913). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 3, 300–321. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1978c. Nach dem Jenaer Parteitag (1913). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 3, 343–353. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1978d. Der Maigedanke auf dem Vormarsch (1913). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 3, 191–194. Berlin: Karl Dietz.

7

ON THE DEFENSIVE

143

Luxemburg, Rosa. 1978e. Taktische Fragen (1913). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 3, 246–258. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1978f. Rede zur Steuerfrage auf dem Parteitag der SPD in Jena vom 14. bis 20. September 1913. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 3, 343–353. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1978g. Wieder Masse und Führer (1911). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 3, 37–42. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1987a. Brief an Kostja Zetkin vom 2. August 1914. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 5, 7–8. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1987b. Brief an Leo Jogiches vom 8. Dezember 1915. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 5, 92–93. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1993. Brief an Henriette Roland Holst vom August 1911. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 6, 177. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2000. Rebuilding the International (1915). www.marxists.org. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2001a. Brief an Kostja Zetkin vom 22. November 1911. In Gesammelte Briefe, Bd. 4, 127–128. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2001b. Brief an Franz Mehring vom 19. April 1912. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 4, 201–202. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2004. The Russian Revolution (1918). In The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, ed. Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, 281–310. New York: Monthly Review Press. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2008. The Mass Strike (1906). In The Essential Rosa Luxemburg: Reform or Revolution and the Mass Strike, 111–181. Chicago: Haymarket Books. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2011. Letter to Franz Mehring, August 31, 1915, Barnim Street. In The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg, ed. Georg Adler, Peter Hudis, and Annelies Laschitza, tran. George Shriver, 351–354. London and New York: Verso. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2017. Die Alternative (1914). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 7.2, 892–893. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Nettl, Peter J. 1966. Rosa Luxemburg. In Two Volumes. Volume 2. London: Oxford University Press. Shepardson, Donald E. 1996. Rosa Luxemburg and the Noble Dream. New York: Peter Lang.

CHAPTER 8

The Imperialist Age and the Accumulation of Capital

It has always been the privilege of epigones to take fertile hypotheses, turn them into rigid dogma, and be smugly satisfied, whereas a pioneering mind is filled with creative doubt. Luxemburg (2015a, 374)

‘Help Me Figure Something Out---But Quickly!’ Luxemburg’s theory of accumulation has a history that stretches back to the mid-1890s. Writing her dissertation on the development of capitalism in Russian-occupied Poland made plain to her the key role played by the transition from a subsistence economy based around agricultural and artisanal production to large-scale commodity production and the accompanying integration into ever larger markets increasingly shaped by capitalism. While in Capital Marx concentrated on the model of a fully capitalised (national) economy, i.e. ‘pure’ capitalism, Luxemburg’s object of inquiry was an economy composed both of large capitalist firms and of semi-feudal estates and small-scale production, including a great deal of subsistence agriculture, all in a state of great upheaval (see Luxemburg 2013a). In Russian-occupied Poland, she was able to study the significance of the demand for the development of an internal capitalist market from non-capitalist sectors.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 M. Brie and J. Schütrumpf, Rosa Luxemburg, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67486-1_8

145

146

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

The issue of the accumulation of capital and its limits was a feature of Luxemburg’s dispute with Bernstein. On 2 July 1898, at the height of the dispute, she wrote to Jogiches: ‘The two issues I find most difficult are (1) explaining crises and (2) finding positive proof that capitalism must be the agent of its own destruction, which in my view is unavoidable; to me, this is nothing more and nothing less than an apt justification for a new kind of scientific socialism’ (Luxemburg 1982a, 166). At this point she was already unsatisfied with the previously existing reasons provided by Marx and Engels stressing the concentration and centralisation of capital. Six months later, in another letter to Jogiches dated 9 January 1899, she further refined her problem: Now, help me figure something out, but quickly! As capitalism develops, so do its contradictions and the untenability of not only the capitalist economy, but also the capitalist state, with the latter i.e. the capitalist political system equally propelling itself towards collapse. A real-life example: up until five or six years ago, Constantinople was a flashpoint in international politics, so much so that the entire struggle for the world revolved around it. […] Around 1895 there was a dramatic shift. The First Sino-Japanese War opened the door to China, and European politics, driven by capitalist and state interests, now trained its gaze on Asia. Constantinople receded into the background. […] What’s clear to me is that the dividing up of Asia and Africa will be the final destination, beyond which there will be nowhere else for Europe to exploit for its own development. At this point there will once again be a kind of entrapping as seen recently with respect to the Orient, and no options will remain open to the states of Europe except to tear each other apart, meaning that politics will enter a period of final crises and so on and so forth. You already understand what wonderful prospects that will afford […]. (Luxemburg 1982b, 249f.)

From the outset, Luxemburg tied the imagined unavoidable collapse of capitalism to its tendency towards overproduction: ‘Whether or not a global crisis or smaller partial crises will in fact soon manifest are two very different sorts of question that in fact cannot be answered. It is enough to say that overproduction in some form must and will begin to occur sooner or later—and it is this that will prove to be the death knell of capitalist society’ (Luxemburg 1979, 550). Already in her extended discussion of Kautsky’s book against Bernstein (Kautsky 1899), the ‘incurable chronic overproduction’ appeared to her as ‘the final limit against which capitalism can assert itself at all’ (Luxemburg 1979, 550), even though she

8

THE IMPERIALIST AGE …

147

saw it as possible that the class struggle of the proletariat might bring about the end of the capitalist mode of production ‘before it enters the stage of its decay’ (Luxemburg 1979, 550). For Luxemburg, only the knowledge of an absolute limit of this kind transforms socialism from a goal residing in a ‘foggy region’ of the future, one which ‘might be able to be realised in 500 years’, to ‘a foreseeable and necessary goal of practical politics’ (Luxemburg 1979, 550). Without the assumption of such an absolute limit, a limit that is scientifically proven, Luxemburg believed the entire edifice of Marxism would collapse for lack of a stable fundament. The revolutionary Realpolitik that Luxemburg represents is based on the linking of the final goal with daily politics. However, the final goal itself is justified for her based on the idea that capitalism will precipitate a limit at which it must fail. Thus, Luxemburg’s theory of accumulation scientifically justifies what she merely claimed in her dispute with Bernstein, just as Marx’s Capital transformed the hypotheses of the Communist Manifesto into scientific theory of political economy. It was not until she became a lecturer on political economy at the SPD’s party school, however, that she was able to systematically pursue this line of inquiry and come up with an answer that in her view allowed this thesis to be convincingly and scientifically explained. One course participant, Rosi Wolfstein, wrote the following about Luxemburg’s method of teaching in 1920: How did she compel us to engage independently with questions of national economy, to come to our own understanding of them? By questioning! By questioning, and constantly questioning and searching, she brought out of the class whatever knowledge there was on the matter at hand. By questioning she knocked on the answer and let us hear for ourselves where it sounded hollow, and how much so, by questioning she tapped on arguments and let us see for ourselves whether they were crooked or straight, by questioning she compelled us to go beyond recognising our own error to ourselves finding an airtight soluton. (quoted in Hirsch 1969, 77)

In the period before World War I, while working on The Accumulation of Capital, imperialism became an increasingly important focus for Luxemburg. In the Second International, the issues of colonialism, imperialism and war were taking on greater significance. The 1904 congress in Amsterdam called upon member parties to intensively study the questions related to them. Subsequently, these turned into sources of intense

148

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

dispute at the congress in 1907. One resolution highlighting the positive sides of colonialism was only defeated with a slim majority, while the following resolution passed with support from Luxemburg, Lenin, Plekhanov, Trotsky and others: In the even of a threat of war it is the duty of the workers and their parliamentary representatives in the countries involved to do everything possible to prevent the outbreak of war by taking suitable measures, which and of course change or be intensified in accordance with the intensification of the class struggle and the general political situation. In the event of war breaking out nevertheless, it is their duty to take measures to bring it to an end as quickly as possible, and to utilize the economic and political crisis brought about by the war to arouse the masse of the people and accelerate the overthrow of capitalist class rule. (Luxemburg 1972, 236)

Her political activities and economic theoretical work were closely connected to one another and sought to tackle the same issues (see Park 2016). She believed that both domestic and foreign politics should be understood in terms of their strategic relation (see Luxemburg 1978a, 11). She strictly rejected the argument that presented ‘colonialist policy’ as merely ‘a bad deal in which the costs outweighed the benefits’ (Luxemburg 1978b, 35). For her, imperialism was the logical extension of the same elements that had accompanied ‘the history of capital from its beginning’. Unlike others such as Bernstein, she could not detect any ‘civilizing’ silver linings: ‘The very nature, the essence, the entire purpose and substance of the imperialist policies practised by the capitalist states is the incremental, incessant shredding of all non-capitalist countries and peoples, the tatters of which are gradually being devoured and digested by capitalism’ (Luxemburg 1978b, 28). The years following 1870 had been a period of relative calm at the centre of the global capitalist system as well as one in which the European colonial project completed its spread across the globe. The wealth of the USA and Western Europe grew, and with it the participation of the working classes in these capitalist centres in this wealth—albeit at a low level. The hegemony of the property-owning bourgeoisie in England was superseded by the dominance of finance and industrial oligopolies (for more on the paradoxes of this time, see Hobsbawm 1989: 9f.). This period of relative calm came to an end around 1900, however. While a kind of trench warfare was occurring between capital

8

THE IMPERIALIST AGE …

149

and labour in the core countries, more violent conflict began to break out on the peripheries—firstly between the imperialist states, secondly between these states and the anti-colonial movements that were beginning to take shape, and thirdly in the form of people’s revolutions, as seen in China (from 1900 onwards), Russia (1905–1907) and Mexico (1913 to 1920). In the imperialist heartlands, democratic and social reforms began to stagnate or regress, while abroad imperialist oppression became more brutal as a response to growing resistance. Inter-imperialist conflict threatened to spiral out of control. Together with other radical leftists of the Socialist International, from 1900 onwards Luxemburg demanded that social democrats ‘take note of world affairs’, for ‘all countries are in a constant state of war’ (Luxemburg 2014, 305, 306). For this reason, socialist movements needed a new strategy and theory. For some, important assumptions of the Marxist theory of capital accumulation seemed to have been proven false. For others, a further development of Marxist political economy and its expansion were necessary in order to find a combative response to the challenges being presented. Here, Raya Dunayevskaya notes the following connection: ‘By the beginning of the twentieth century the extension of capitalism into its imperialist phase opened a totally new epoch because there also emerged its total opposite – revolution. Beyond any doubt this new global dimension – the Russian Revolution of 1905, which was signalling a new world stage in the East as well – made the dialectic of history very real for Luxemburg’ (Dunayevskaya 1981, 6) The Marxist analyses that came out of this period were heavily influenced by Rudolf Hilferding’s superb study of finance capital, which appeared in 1910 (Hilferding 1981), with leading theorists of the Second International such as Kautsky (1911, 1914), Lenin (1974) and Bukharin in 1917 (1972) all making reference to it. John Atkinson Hobson’s work from (1902) was an important source for all concerned. They took up the issue of the development of credit and corporations already observed by Marx as well as the process of centralisation that he predicted. Marx had extrapolated this centralisation into a situation where ‘by unseen threads it, moreover, draws the disposable money, scattered in larger or smaller masses over the surface of society, into the hands of individual or associated capitalists’ (Marx 1977, 621f.).

150

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Society as a Cultural Organism Luxemburg’s approach to capitalist accumulation differed considerably from this discourse. She recognised the importance of major banks and large corporations, of course, as well as the influence of cartels, but unlike many of the aforementioned theorists she did not see the processes of centralisation and concentration as primarily being precursors to socialism which merely needed to be repurposed to benefit the working class. Instead, Luxemburg emphasised the destructive effect that these processes had on colonial or semi-colonial economies and in particular on smallscale agricultural production. She analysed in detail the state-mediated process of redistribution towards monopolistic organisations. Her positive point of reference was not the large organisations of capital or the state but rather workers’ efforts to self-organise, particularly peasant farmers in pre-capitalist communities, who she would continually refer to as examples of the possibility of non-capitalist economies and forms of property ownership. She also provided sharp analysis of how they had been destroyed by the different forms of capital accumulation. In 1907, when she began to work at the SPD’s party school, she also gave public lectures before audiences of thousands, which by many accounts were quite the event. As noted by Christel Neusüß (1985, 306), Luxemburg’s central interest was the reproduction of society as an entity. She understood society to be a cultural organism, with the economy and its concrete sociocultural and political forms only one part of it. Unlike Marx, she did not begin her work on the accumulation of capital with the commodity as the elementary form of wealth, but instead based it on a contemplation of the preservation of society as a whole as a cultural organism and the danger posed to it by capitalist accumulation. She stressed: ‘In the first instance, the regular repetition of production is the general precondition and foundation of regular consumption, and is thus a prerequisite of human civilization in each of its historical forms. In this sense, the concept of reproduction contains a historical moment, one that is defined by the history of civilization’ (Luxemburg 2015a, 7). Conceptually, she took this overarching society-as-entity to be civilisation, and examined the threats that this entity (and especially its weakest links) were exposed to by the accumulation of capital. It is precisely this starting point that ensures that Luxemburg’s work remains so relevant today and continues to be keenly received. Luxemburg believed that it was always civilisations that

8

THE IMPERIALIST AGE …

151

‘reproduce’ themselves and not only technological and economic relations. Capitalism seemed to her to be ‘something impossible’, a society without ‘any conscious organization’, which despite this ‘can nevertheless exist and function at a whole’ (Luxemburg 2013b, 293). There is always an inextricable relationship between the main question on which a research project is based and the chosen models, methods and empirical objects of research (Brie 2019, 69). Marx assumed that a communist social revolution would emerge from the emancipatory struggles of the highly developed countries’ working classes. This strategic assumption largely determined his politico-economic research process, which is why Capital alleged a capitalist mode of production in abstraction from non-capitalist relations while ignoring reproductive labour in the family and in public, simple commodity production, colonies and so on. Only those processes which appeared absolutely necessary to theoretically justify a proletarian revolution were incorporated. This was not an unconscious decision, but one made as to not include more assumptions in the analysis than were absolutely necessary to justify the hypothesis guiding the research. Marx let the law of parsimony prevail. Based on the experiences of the Age of Imperialism, Luxemburg recognised that the object of research in the Marxist analysis of society needed to be expanded in order to ground revolutionary strategy in new conditions. In her view, the totality to be investigated consisted of two groups of countries. Only from their contradictory unity could did she believe it was possible to explain the whole that is the accumulation of capital (Córdova 1974, 77f.). Unlike Hilferding, Luxemburg did not locate the reasons for the increasingly confrontational nature of capitalism both at home and abroad in the supposition that ‘finance capital in its complete form’ signifies ‘the highest stage of concentration of economic and political power in the hands of the capitalist oligarchy’ and that this is ‘increasingly irreconcilable with the interests of the mass of the people, exploited by finance capital but also summoned into the battle against it’ (Hilferding 1981, 370). Nor did she formulate the problem in the same way as Lenin, who emphasised that ‘[m]onopolies, oligarchy, the striving for domination and not for freedom, the exploitation of an increasing number of small or weak nations by a handful of the richest or most powerful nations – all these have given birth to those distinctive characteristics of imperialism which compel us to define it as parasitic or decaying capitalism’ (Lenin 1974, 300). She saw the cause of the crises as being the

152

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

limits of capitalist accumulation itself, which provoked militaristic, authoritarian and anti-social responses. Rather than foregrounding the particular form taken by early twentieth-century capitalism, Luxemburg instead saw this form as the culmination of capitalism’s general contradictions. This is both a strength and weakness of her approach.

Capitalism as an Impossible World Form One of the Rosa Luxemburg’s aims as an economist was to make her own profession superfluous: once commodity production is overcome, political economy will come to an end. Luxemburg had nothing less than this in mind. While she was of Marx’s school, both politically and as a scholar, she avoided becoming one of Marx’s many epigones. On the contrary, in order to analyse the capitalist production of surplus value—in whose DNA growth is encoded as a necessity, continuous expansion even at the cost of its own ruin—Marx had chosen to work with a simplified model. He imagined a society that consisted solely of capitalists and wage labourers: a society, in other words, such as had never existed, as Marx himself always emphasised. Only under these ‘laboratory conditions’ was it possible for him to uncover the basic workings of this particular mode of production. He was able to show how surplus value arises, how it is not consumed but fed into production—accumulated—in order to produce even more commodities and derive even more surplus value. Any capitalist who refuses to play this game will sooner or later be driven out of business by the competition. There is one question, however, that Marx could not answer with his simplified approach, namely that of where growth, where constantly increasing turnover, i.e. the profitable retransformation of the capital invested in commodities into more capital, comes from. This question was Luxemburg’s starting point. She assumed that in a society consisting only of capitalists and wage labourers, it was impossible to expand sales. She did not reject Marx, however, but took his findings and set out on the return journey—from abstraction to reality. There she came across a third area: non-capitalist markets. This is what she realised: ‘Capitalist production, as genuine mass production, is dependent on buyers from peasant and handicraft spheres of production in the old countries as well as on consumers from all other countries, and at the same time, in technical terms, it absolutely cannot get along without the products of those other countries and social strata (no matter whether the products be means

8

THE IMPERIALIST AGE …

153

of subsistence or means of production). Thus, from the very beginning, an exchange relationship necessarily had to develop between capitalist production and its non-capitalist milieu, and in this relationship capital found it possible to realize its own surplus value in shiny pieces of gold for the purpose of further capitalization as well as to provide itself with all sorts of commodities necessary for the expansion of its own production, and in addition, to obtain ever-new recruits to the proletarianized workforce’ (Luxemburg 2015a, 360) Luxemburg reasoned that the circulation of capital would grind to a halt if the conquest of the non-capitalist world as a cheap supplier of raw materials and as a market for expensive industrial products of the capitalist ‘mother countries’ should fail. But the scramble for markets, she saw, would put the capitalist ‘mother countries’ at loggerheads with each other, with competition for non-capitalist areas ultimately driving them into a world war. Luxemburg developed this view in 1913 in her—epically proportioned—work The Accumulation of Capital: A Contribution to the Economic Theory of Imperialism. She hoped the book would be a major success, but success failed to materialise. Aside from Franz Mehring, who made a positive review available at no fee to the more than 70 SPD newspapers, the SPD establishment’s reaction to their radical comrade, who was popular with the rank and file, was rather sulky—above all on account of Luxemburg’s attacks on the ever more half-hearted politics pursued by the SPD leadership. The response experienced by Luxemburg’s book suffered from this conflict as well. In all honesty, the book really wasn’t very well written. Long passages of the first 200 pages read like Luxemburg getting her own thoughts in order, and feel like a rough draft. The seven historical chapters on accumulation, imperialism and militarism at the end of the volume give a different impression, however—this is world literature. In 2016, it was published for the first time in Arabic to a gratifying reception. After the book flopped, Luxemburg answered her critics in another work that has become known in the literature under the title An Anti-Critique. She wrote this work in 1915, while serving a one-year prison sentence for her uncompromising anti-war stance in the women’s prison on Barnimstraße in Berlin. Since nobody at the time would dare to print anything by this persona non grata, the book waited until 1921, two years after the murder of the author, to find a publisher in Frankes Verlag in Leipzig. The advance represented by Anti-Critique over The Accumulation of

154

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Capital lay less in the content than in its presentation. For here Luxemburg succeeded in presenting her views coherently and at a high linguistic level. However, even in this work, her calculations contained errors. It was Fritz Sternberg (Grebing and Scherer 2017)—who for a long time was largely forgotten—who first overcame these weaknesses, giving Luxemburg’s approach a full elaboration in his 1926 book Imperialism (Sternberg 1926). Whoever wishes to study Luxemburg’s theory of accumulation will therefore do well to start with Sternberg (Sternberg 1929; see for a more recent analysis Krätke 2010). As always in the history of scholarly inquiry, progress did not begin with the right answers, but with intelligent questions. Luxemburg posed a number of these—even if she was not yet able to answer all of them correctly (see for the reception of Luxemburg’s seminal economic work Albo 2016, 37–44; Le Blanc 2015; Krätke 2016). Luxemburg’s work The Accumulation of Capital: A Contribution to the Economic Theory of Imperialism (1913) was precipitated by a number of factors, key among which was her keen observation of the displacement of global political conflict. A second factor was that in her teaching work at the SPD’s party school, she came across problems she was unable to solve within the existing Marxist paradigm. Her interest in pre-capitalist economic forms with communist traits as well as her empathy for those subjected to imperialism also informed the shape of her proposed solution. A direct catalyst was her work on an ‘Introduction to Political Economy’ which remained unfinished and was first published in 1925. In a letter to Kostja Zetkin from this time, she writes: ‘I am at the stage of my economic work (and in the final chapter at that!) in which I wish to explain imperialism. […] The rigorous economic argumentation I have followed led me to Marxian formulas from the end of the second volume of Capital that I had long found suspicious and which I now find to be full of holes. I will have to thoroughly come to terms with them, however, otherwise I will not be able to assemble my argument. As a mental task, the thought excites me, but it will take a considerable amount of time’ (Luxemburg 2001, 124). Her central internal theoretical problem was that she could find no answer to the following question within Marxian political economy: ‘Who […] can be the customer, the consumer, for society’s commodity production, given that these commodities must be sold in order to make accumulation possible? This much is clear: it can be neither the workers nor the capitalists by themselves alone’ (Luxemburg 2015a, 357).

8

THE IMPERIALIST AGE …

155

Three of Luxemburg’s key interests intersected in her work to solve the problem of accumulation. Firstly, she sought an answer to why capitalism reached limits that it was unable to overcome. She believed that this issue was not adequately explained by traditional Marxism. Secondly, her East Central European background gave her an intimate knowledge of the destruction wrought by capitalism at its peripheries. More precisely: she was one of the first Marxists to provide a perspective on the centre of world capitalism from the periphery. Thirdly, she sought to find an explanation for the growing tensions between imperial states and the rising threat of war. The preface to her book of December 1912 ends with the following words: I couldn’t quite manage to present the total process of capitalist production in its concrete relations and in terms of its objective historical confines with sufficient clarity. On closer examination, I came to the insight that this was not merely a question of presentation, but that there was a problem that was theoretically bound up with the content of the second volume of Marx’s Capital , and which simultaneously has a bearing on the practice of contemporary imperialist politics and its economic roots. If my attempt to formulate this problem in a scientifically precise manner has been successful, then it seems to me that, beyond any purely theoretical interest, the present work should have some implications for our practical struggle against imperialism. (Luxemburg 2015b, 6)

Luxemburg located the central contradiction of capitalism in the fact that ‘the movement of capitalist accumulation requires an environment of non-capitalist social formations, that it is in a constant process of metabolism with the latter as it proceeds, and that it can only exist for as long as it finds itself within this milieu’ (Luxemburg 2015b, 263). One could also say: no capitalism without non-capitalism! This was, she believed, ‘in line with Marxian teaching’, but in reality it was a fundamentally different perspective on capital accumulation to the one chosen by Marx in the first volume of Capital. Marx had only observed ‘one facet’ of this accumulation, the one which takes place between capital and labour at the ‘point of production of surplus value’. ‘The other dimension of capital accumulation’, according to Luxemburg, ‘consists in a process that takes place between capital and non-capitalist forms of production. It’s setting is the world stage’ (Luxemburg 2015b, 329) But this dimension of the accumulation of capital is, she thought, as finite as the terrestrial globe, which in her time could already be circumnavigated in far fewer than

156

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

eighty days. Over the past century, it has also become clear ‘that capitalism not only creates its own “exterior”, but also has a great interest in preserving this exterior in order to continue to live off its resources’ (Soiland 2016, 209). For Luxemburg, capital accumulation was the link between exploitation via wage labour as well as both the exploitation and destruction of non-capitalist civilisations. In the latter, she finds something that capitalism, in her view, does not possess—production based on immediate needs and the direct regulation of communal affairs, with ‘agrariancommunist economic organization’ being the ideal example. It was here that her sympathies lay, as her choice of language shows: It is impossible to imagine anything simpler and more harmonious than the economic system of the old Germanic mark. The entire mechanism of social life here is open to view. A strict plan and a tight organization cover everything each individual does and place him as a part of the whole. The immediate needs of everyday life, and the equal satisfaction of everyone, is the starting point and end point of the whole organization. Everyone works together for everyone else and collectively decides on everything. But what does this organization spring from, what is it based on, this power of the collective over the individual? It is nothing other than the communism of land and soil, that is to say, the common possession of the most important means of production by those who work. (Luxemburg 2013b, 198)

Pre-capitalist societies were, for Luxemburg, a ‘valuable historic point of reference which facilitates the criticism of capitalism’ (Löwy 1989, 198) and the anticipation of some of the characteristics of post-capitalist civilisation. Luxemburg found the explanation for capital accumulation’s forced dependence on non-capitalist surroundings in the thesis that constantly growing surplus value is unable to find enough consumers under conditions of equivalent exchange. She believed that the Marxian reproduction schema found in the second volume of Capital did not sufficiently explain where the demand for the additionally created value could come from, provided that it was not consumed by the capitalists themselves. ‘Third parties’ would be required (Luxemburg 2015b, 252). It would be necessary ‘that, at the very least, the surplus value that is to be capitalized

8

THE IMPERIALIST AGE …

157

and the corresponding part of the capitalist mass of products’ (Luxemburg 2015b, 259) be realised outside the capitalist sphere—where else, therefore, but in the ‘non-capitalist’ world?! Unlike all preceding modes of production, Luxemburg believed that capitalism was compelled to extinct all non-capitalist forms while simultaneously needing them to survive. She saw capitalism as an economic form which ‘at the same time as it tends to become the universal form, […] is smashed to smithereens by its intrinsic inability to be a universal form of production’ (Luxemburg 2015b, 341). She was also able to draw upon her brilliant outline of the development of global cotton production and the capitalist industrial revolution, which trained a microscopic eye on the contradictions of capitalism and colonialism as well as modern slavery and peonage (Luxemburg 2013b, 277–82; see the recent presentation by Beckert 2014). The problem of effective demand under the conditions of reproduction on an extended scale highlighted by Luxemburg cannot be explained away by saying she is referring to the demand for constant capital by capitalist enterprises and their increased consumption of their own products such as iron and coal. It also does not distract from the contradiction between capital and wage labour and the class character of capitalist accumulation (as asserted by Dunayevskaya 1981, 41; Hudis 2014, 478ff. among others) when Luxemburg emphasises that the movement of these (and other) contradictions must pass through the bottleneck of demand. Alongside non-capitalist surroundings she also calls attention to state expenditure (not least concerning armaments), albeit only in her work’s final pages. Later attempts to deal with the issues she raises—whether via Fordism, the welfare state, Keynesian stimulus or a debt-driven form of accumulation—make clear the wide range of forms that attempt to deal with the drive towards reproduction on an extended scale and the need to secure conditions for valorisation. Bellofiore summarises the three most import economic insights auf Luxemburg: ‘They are: (i) the macromonetary nature of the capitalist process, and therefore the crucial issue of finance in the accumulation of capital; (ii) the dependence of the dynamic equilibria of extended reproduction on the dynamic of investments, and of the latter on the incentive to invest; and (iii) the grounding of crisis theory in the dynamics of production of value and surplus value, because the crisis of realization is the necessary consequence of relative surplus value extraction producing the tendential fall of the “relative” wage. If it is true that Luxemburg was not able to exploit her insights to the full,

158

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

it is also true that her critics do not even see the problem that she was posing’ (Bellofiore 2013, 5f.) Capitalism, as Luxemburg repeatedly emphasised, will not automatically collapse of its own accord. Judith Dellheim made reference to this when she wrote: ‘How will working people be ready and become capable of changing their material conditions and ways of living such that they are then able to put an end to the violence perpetrated against them, against workers in other countries, against the more vulnerable sections of the world’s population and against nature and move beyond it?’ (Dellheim 2016, 313). Until this question can be answered, capitalist accumulation will continue to develop new spheres of conquest and dispossession and reshape the outcomes of its destructive processes back into material for its further valorisation. Raya Dunayevskaya has noted a grave weakness in Luxemburg’s theory of accumulation. On the one hand, Luxemburg drew attention away from the one-sided focus on the relation between capital and wage labour in the core sectors of industry and in the industrial centres, while also providing a detailed analysis of the destruction that imperialist penetration causes around the globe and extensively describing the revolts of oppressed peoples in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Yet on the other hand, she neglected to conclude from this that these people could become revolutionary subjects in the Age of Imperialism, refusing to give up her focus on the proletariat as the sole revolutionary force. As Dunayevskaya writes, Some of the best writing in Luxemburg’s Accumulation occurs in her description of the ‘real’ process of accumulation through the conquest of Algeria and India; the opium wars against China; the Anglo-Boer war and the carving up of the African Empire; and the extermination of the America Indian. Although Luxemburg described concretely how the war between the Boers and the English was fought ‘on the backs of the Negroes’, she did not draw any conclusions about the Black Africans being a revolutionary force. That revolutionary role was reserved for the proletariat alone. In her critique of Marx’s diagrams she saw his economic categories as only economic, rather than as symbols of the class struggle itself (Dunayevskaya 1981, 37). Luxemburg’s distancing herself from everything that could appear petty bourgeois or nationalist—from particular womens’ interests to particular ‘Jewish pains’ (Judenschmerzen)—was so absolute that her strategic considerations did not account for the universalist potentialities

8

THE IMPERIALIST AGE …

159

of these particular struggles. For her, the proletariat ultimately remains the universal class—a view which allows nationalist, imperialist, antisemitic and sexist tendencies within this class to appear as mere confusions to be overcome in the course of revolutionary self-empowerment. With Luxemburg, the theory of accumulation took a turn towards imperialism and reproduction, which have remained in focus to this day. If Marx assumed a ‘pure capitalism’ as a real abstraction, a vantage point from which only the proletariat is visible as a truly progressive class, then Luxemburg construed the relation between the capitalist mode of production and non-capitalist modes of production as being constitutive for all forms of capital accumulation. In so doing, she effected a considerable broadening of the Marxian conception of accumulation, yet failed to draw potential conclusions for revolutionary strategy. The working class must simultaneously grapple directly with capital and with the destruction wrought by imperialism and militarism. In the words of Peter Hudis: ‘Rosa Luxemburg remains a vital figure for our time because of her insistence that the accumulation of capital depends not only upon the internal temporal dynamics of particular capitalist societies but most of all on capitalism’s spatial penetration and destruction of the non-capitalist world’ (Hudis 2014, 474). This also raises the question of the importance of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles for socialist strategy. It was clear to Luxemburg, at least, that ignorance of the contradiction of capitalist accumulation that she had pointed out had inevitably led to ‘the miserable fiasco of today’s social democracy movement’ (Luxemburg 2015a, 443) that she experienced during World War I. According to Luxemburg’s epochal definition, capital continues to expand in its current imperialist form, in the process destroying precisely the purchasing power (both on the periphery and at the centre) that it requires for the realisation of surplus value. Her brilliant conclusion: ‘The more violently capital uses militarism to exterminate non capitalist strata both at home and abroad, and to worsen living standards for all strata of workers, the more the day-to-day history of capital accumulation on the world stage is transformed into a continuous series of political and social catastrophes and convulsions, which, together with the periodic economic cataclysms in the form of crises, will make it impossible for accumulation to continue, and will turn the rebellion of the international working class against the rule of capital into a necessity, even before the latter has come up against its natural, self-created economic constraints [the lack of non-capitalist demand—M.B.]’ (Luxemburg 2015b, 341). According

160

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

to Luxemburg, only the political revolution of the working class could positively resolve this contradiction; otherwise a descent into barbarism loomed (Luxemburg 2017, 229).

Politico-Economical Foundations of a New Strategy The link between developments in the centres and peripheries of the global capitalist system has always been shaped by distinctly barbaric characteristics. In the light of this reality, Hannah Arendt understood imperialism—with direct recourse to Luxemburg—as being one of the ‘elements’ of totalitarianism that paved the way for national socialism. She writes: ‘Perhaps none of the books on imperialism is guided by as extraordinary an historical instinct as is the work of Rosa Luxemburg. Since in the course of her studies she was led to results that could not be reconciled with Marxism in either its orthodox or its reformed versions, but she could not free herself from the received scaffolding, her work remained fragmentary; and since neither Marxists nor their opponents could correct it, it has remained almost unrecognized’ (Arendt 1951, 148; for a systematic comparison of the concepts of politics of Luxemburg and Arendt see Kulla 1999; Auernheimer 2007). Luxemburg’s strategic conclusions for the socialist workers’ movement were above all a systematic struggle against imperialism, militarism and colonialism as well as unambiguous solidarity with all peoples subjugated and dispossessed by capitalism. Based on the Russian Revolution of 1905, Luxemburg developed an understanding of politics that no longer saw a difference between the struggles of the organised labour movement and the broadest swathes of the working class, including those often written off as the ‘lumpenproletariat’, not least by Marx. She sought to incorporate in these struggles those from the broadest possible range of social classes, including peasants, who had long been perceived as being reactionary. She emphasised the connection between the struggles in developed capitalist countries with those in Russia and those of the colonised or semi-colonised peoples of Africa, Latin America and Asia. In her view, the tenor of all of these conflicts was always (directly or indirectly) set by either capital accumulation or the resistance marshalled against it. In fact, the greatest impetus towards emancipation could come from those not living in the centre of the capitalist system, and thus Luxemburg felt that the working class of Germany or Western Europe lost their avant-garde status in this respect.

8

THE IMPERIALIST AGE …

161

She saw the colonies not as mere appendages to the centres but did see the subjugated peoples therein as being subjected to ‘civilizing’ processes. By siding morally with the most disadvantaged in the global system, by comprehending, as a matter of theory, the entirety of the process of capital accumulation and not limiting herself to the immediate relation between capital and wage labour, and by understanding the breadth of struggles at hand on a practical level, she opened up a range of new potential pathways for both Marxism and socialism. For Luxemburg, her reformulation of Marx’s theory of accumulation and her justification for a strategy of self-organisation of workers and the masses—even if it ran counter to the rule of the bureaucratic apparatus of her own movement—formed a single whole. All of this changed her view on socialism. For Luxemburg, it was not simply an industrial system in the hands of a victorious working class, but rather the beginning of a new civilisation. This civilisation would inherit not only the wealth of heavy industry, but also be the recipient of a much richer cultural heritage that incorporated pre-capitalist civilisations. As it says in the final sentence of Accumulation of Capital, Luxemburg saw socialism as ‘the very form of economy that is inherently a universal one and simultaneously a harmonious system in itself, since it is oriented not to accumulation, but to the satisfaction of the vital needs of labouring humanity through the development of all of the world’s productive powers’ (Luxemburg 2015b, 342). According to her vision, in a new society elevated beyond capitalism, elements of precapitalist economic forms would re-emerge—production geared towards the satisfying of real needs, clearly visible relations between social actors, democratic self-determination for producers and direct democracy.

Bibliography Albo, Greg. 2016. Rosa Luxemburg and Contemporary Capitalism. In Rosa Luxemburg: A Permanent Challenge for Political Economy. On the History and the Present of Luxemburg’s “Accumulation of Capital,” ed. Judith Dellheim and Frieder Otto Wolf, 25–54. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Arendt, Hannah. 1951. The Origins of Totalitarianism. New York: Schocken Books. Auernheimer, Gustav. 2007. Revolution und Räte bei Hannah Arendt und Rosa Luxemburg. Utopie kreativ: 698–707. Beckert, Sven. 2014. Empire of Cotton: A Global History. New York: Knopf.

162

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Bellofiore, Ricardo. 2013. General Introduction. Rosa Luxemburg on Capitalist Dynamics, Distribution and Effective Demand Crises. In Rosa Luxemburg and the Critique of Political Economy, ed. Riccardo Bellofiore, 1–23. London: Routledge. Brie, Michael. 2019. Marx’ Research Projekt As a Future Science for Emancipatory Action: A Delineation. In Karl Marx’s Life, Ideas, and Influences. A Critical Examination on the Bicentenary, ed. Shaibal Gupta, Marcello Musto, and Amini Babak, 61–84. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Bukharin, Nikolai I. 1972. Imperialism and World Economy: With an Introduction by V.I. Lenin. London: Martin Lawrence. Córdova, Armando. 1974. Rosa Luxemburg und die Dritte Welt. In Rosa Luxemburg: oder die Bestimmung des Sozialismus, ed. Claudio Pozzoli, 65–93. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Dellheim, Judith. 2016. From ‘Accumulation of Capital’ to Solidarity Based Ways of Life. In Rosa Luxemburg: A Permanent Challenge for Political Economy. On the History and the Present of Luxemburg’s “Accumulation of Capital,” ed. Judith Dellheim and Frieder Otto Wolf, 305–338. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Dunayevskaya, Raya. 1981. Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution. New Jersey: Humanity Press. Grebing, Helga, and Klaus-Jürgen Scherer (eds.). 2017. Streiten für eine Welt jenseits des Kapitalismus: Fritz Sternberg - Wissenschaftler, Vordenker, Sozialist. Paderborn: Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh. Hilferding, Rudolf. 1981. Finance Capital. A study of the latest stage of capitalist development (1910). London and Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Hirsch, Helmut. 1969. Rosa Luxemburg. Reinbek: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag. Hobsbawm, Eric J. 1989. The Age of Empire, 1875–1914. New York: Vintage. Hobson, John A. 1902. Imperialism. London. Hudis, Peter. 2014. The Dialectic of the Spatial Determination of Capital: Rosa Luxemburgs Accumulation of Capital Reconsidered. International Critical Thought 4: 474–490. Kautsky, Karl. 1899. Bernstein und das Sozialdemokratische Programm. Eine Antikritik. Stuttgart: J. H. W. Dietz Nachf. Kautsky, Karl. 1911. Finanzkapital und Krisen. Die Neue Zeit 29: 22–25, 764– 772, 797–804, 874–883. www.marxists.org. Kautsky, Karl. 1914. Der Imperialismus. Die Neue Zeit 32: 908–922. Krätke, Michael. 2010. Rosa Luxemburg und die Analyse des gegenwärtigen Kapitalismus. In Rosa Luxemburg. Ökonomische und historisch-politische Aspekte ihres Werkes: Internationale Rosa-Luxemburg-Gesellschaft in Tokio, April 2007, und Berlin, Januar 2009, ed. Narihiko Ito, Annelies Laschitza, and Ottokar Luban, 130–174. Berlin: Karl Dietz.

8

THE IMPERIALIST AGE …

163

Krätke, Michael. 2016. On the Beginnings of Marxian Macroeconomics. In Rosa Luxemburg: A Permanent Challenge for Political Economy. On the History and the Present of Luxemburg’s “Accumulation of Capital,” ed. Judith Dellheim and Frieder Otto Wolf, 123–155. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Kulla, Ralf. 1999. Revolutionärer Geist und republikanische Freiheit. Über die verdrängte Nähe von Hannah Arendt zu Rosa Luxemburg. Hannover: Offizin Hannover. Le Blanc, Paul. 2015. Introduction. In The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg. Volume II, Economic Writings 2, Rosa Luxemburg, ed. Peter Hudis and Paul Le Blanc, vii–xxix. London: Verso. Lenin, Vladimir I. 1974. Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. A Popular Outline (1917). In Collected Works, Volume 22, 185–304. Moscow: Progress Publishers. Löwy, Michael. 1989. Der Urkommunismus in den ökonomischen Schriften von Rosa Luxemburg. Für eine romantisch-revolutionäre Geschichtsauffassung. Die Linie Luxemburg - Gramsci. Zur Aktualität Und Historizität Marxistischen Denkens. Argument Sonderband aS 159: 140–146. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1972. Änderungsanträge zum Resolutionsentwurf August Bebels über die imperialistische Politik (1907). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 2, 235–236. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1978a. Um Marokko (1911). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 3, 5–11. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1978b. Unser Marokkoflugblatt (1911). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 3, 32–36. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1979. Kautskys Buch wider Bernstein (1898). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.1, 537–554. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1982a. Brief an Leo Jogiches vom 2. Juli 1898. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 1, 165–167. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1982b. Brief an Leo Jogiches vom 9. Januar 1899. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 1, 247–250. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2001. Brief an Kostja Zetkin vom 16. November 1911. In Gesammelte Briefe, vol. 4, 123–124. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2013a. The Industrial Development of Poland. In The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg, vol. I: Economic Writings 1, 1–78. London: Verso. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2013b. Introduction to Political Economy. In The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg. Volume I: Economic Writings 1, ed. Peter Hudis, 89–300. London: Verso. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2014. Internationaler Sozialistenkongress vom 23. bis 27. September 1900 in Paris. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 6, 302–307. Berlin: Karl Dietz.

164

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Luxemburg, Rosa. 2015a. The Accumulation of Capital, Or, What the Epigones Have Made Out of Marx’s Theory—An Anti-Critique. In The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg. Volume I, Economic Writings 2, ed. Peter Hudis, 345–449. London: Verso. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2015b. The Accumulation of Capital: A Contribution to the Economic Theory of Imperialism (1913). In The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg. Volume I, Economic Writings 2, ed. Peter Hudis, tran. Nicholas Gray and Joseph G. Fracchia, 1–342. London: Verso. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2017. Handschriftliche Fragmente über Widersprüche und Tendenzen des Kapitalismus. In Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 7.1, 207–236. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Marx, Karl. 1977. Capital, vol. I. New York: Vintage Books. Neusüß, Christel. 1985. Die Kopfgeburten der Arbeiterbewegung oder die Genossin Luxemburg bringt alles durcheinander. Hamburg: Rasch und Röhring. Park, Julius Francis. 2016. On the Historical Conditions of Accumulation. In Rosa Luxemburg: A Permanent Challenge for Political Economy. On the History and the Present of Luxemburg’s “Accumulation of Capital,” ed. Judith Dellheim and Frieder Otto Wolf, 1–24. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Soiland, Tove. 2016. A Feminist Approach to Primitive Accumulation. In Rosa Luxemburg: A Permanent Challenge for Political Economy. On the History and the Present of Luxemburg’s “Accumulation of Capital,” ed. Judith Dellheim and Frieder Otto Wolf, 185–217. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Sternberg, Fritz. 1926. Imperialismus. Berlin: Malik-Verl. Sternberg, Fritz. 1929. Der Imperialismus und seine Kritiker. Berlin: Soziologische Verlagsanstalt.

CHAPTER 9

Rosa Luxemburg’s Symphony on the Russian Revolution

The Prehistory Let us go back to the summer of 1918. Rosa Luxemburg was moved to the prison in Wrocław one year before. She has to put up with fresh maltreatment. Her health is ruined. One of her closest friends, Hans Diefenbach, falls at the front. The world is in commotion, in the East more than anywhere else, but she remains imprisoned. In Germany, resistance against the war is growing but there is no mass refusal to obey orders yet, and no councils and no revolution yet either. In Russia, her closest political allies, the Bolsheviks, have taken power and are struggling to impose socialism. Nevertheless, if we look at the articles written by Rosa Luxemburg at this time, the socialism she so yearned for appears to be distorting the ideals she is committed to. She deeply fears a new disappointment. In this situation, she does something utterly impossible. She circumvents the logic of us or them and so doing both appraises and criticises the Bolsheviks. She criticises them for not doing enough to abolish the roots of capitalism, hatred between peoples and war because the Bolsheviks gave land to the peasants, enabled subjugated peoples to gain independence as nations and signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the German Kaiserreich. Thereby, writes Rosa Luxemburg, they chose paths that did not directly lead to socialism and even took paths that could potentially © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 M. Brie and J. Schütrumpf, Rosa Luxemburg, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67486-1_9

165

166

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

discredit socialism. Harsher still is her criticism of the Bolsheviks’ transition to dictatorship. A jotted note like a wild shoot on the side of her manuscript still resonates today: ‘Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party-however numerous they may be-is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of “justice” but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when “freedom” becomes a special privilege’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 305). It seems she has taken the term ‘one who thinks differently’ (inakomyclwi) from a collection of essays by Russian writer Maxim Gorky that appeared in 1918 in German language (Gorki 1918, 21) where he was criticising the Bolshevist government for prosecuting intellectual opponents. Some say one ought not reduce Rosa Luxemburg to the sentence ‘freedom for the one who thinks differently’. Reducing a thinker and politician like Rosa Luxemburg who has left such a large and complex compilation of texts to a single sentence is either banal or an attempt to remove the power from this sentence as if it had been purely ornamental, as if it had escaped Rosa Luxemburg accidentally in the heat of a polemic. Notwithstanding, she sees in the abolishment of democracy a disastrous instrument of Bolshevik policy and writes: ‘for it stops up the very living source from which alone can come the correction of all the innate shortcomings of social institutions. That source is the active, untrammeled, energetic political life of the broadest masses of the people’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 302). In the discussion of this note, both ‘friends and foes’ often forget that Rosa Luxemburg did not simply criticise the Bolsheviks as undemocratic but also as not socialist. For reasons we will describe later in her view the two critiques are inseparable. To her, it is unthinkable to first suspend democracy, then build the house of socialism and at a later point give the house’s inhabitants the opportunity to discuss the fundaments. In her understanding, socialism and democracy are intrinsically related. Luxemburg had followed the debates about the Russian Revolution in Germany very closely (this discussion is documented in Schütrumpf 2017) and began to intervene more and more critically. The trigger for Luxemburg’s manuscript The Russian Revolution was a footnote by Ernst Meyer after Leo Jogiches, the editor of the Spartacus Letters, was detained. In this footnote, Meyer carefully but nonetheless clearly

9

ROSA LUXEMBURG’S SYMPHONY …

167

distances himself from Luxemburg’s criticism of the Bolsheviks. The manuscript The Russian Revolution from early autumn 1918 is an incomplete but nonetheless clearly structured and therefore nearly complete manuscript. The following analysis of this manuscript will not be to pick out individual arguments and contrast them with positions held by Lenin or Trotsky on the one side and Kautsky as their often quoted antipode on the other. What we aim for is a reconstruction of the context Rosa Luxemburg creates in the text. To this end, we will treat this small but very powerful work in its entirety. We will look at it as if it were a symphony, with its classical four movements, composed as much through logic as by passion. Our focus is not on the historic or current truths of Luxemburg’s statements. We are more interested in the direction she was taking—in what Rosa Luxemburg wanted to say and not what was caused by what she said. The manuscript The Russian Revolution begins and ends with an appraisal of the Russian Revolution and the Bolsheviks. These are sections I and II and the final part—they can be interpreted as the first long and the very short fourth movement of her ‘symphony’. The first massive movement is like a beating drum presenting the theme: ‘The Russian Revolution is the mightiest event of the World War’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 281). This theme is repeated again and again. The appraisal of the role the Bolsheviks played in the revolution leads to the main theme: the Bolsheviks, she states, were the ones who understood that in Russia as much as in Europe, socialism, the dictatorship of the proletariat, was the order of the day. With their demand of all power to the Soviets, they had given the ‘watch-words for driving the revolution ahead’ and drawn ‘all the necessary conclusions’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 289). They had shown the truth of the motto ‘not through a majority, but through revolutionary tactics to a majority – that’s the way the road runs’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 289). As Rosa Luxemburg writes the Bolsheviks had thereby ‘won for themselves the imperishable historic distinction of having for the first time proclaimed the final aim of socialism as the direct program of practical politics’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 290). The manuscript ends with an appraisal of the Bolsheviks stating that they had managed to go beyond ‘questions of tactics’ and instead focused on ‘the most important problem of socialism’: ‘the capacity for action of the proletariat, the strength to act, the will to power of socialism as such’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 310). Luxemburg ends her manuscript with the

168

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

sentence: ‘And in this sense, the future everywhere belongs to “Bolshevism”’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 310). One could also read this final sentence as: ‘It is only in this sense, that the future everywhere belongs to “Bolshevism”’. The beat of the drum has become a fortepiano. The appraisal of the Bolsheviks is played loudly at first and ends much more quietly. It is worth thinking about why Rosa Luxemburg did not focus on the seizure of power, the installation of a socialist government and the development of socialist institutions by the Bolsheviks in Russia as a Leitmotiv with which to start and end her text. Instead, she concentrated on the Bolsheviks’ efficiency in developing the working class’ and the Russian masses’ capacity for revolutionary action. For her, this and only this was the lasting merit of the Leninist party. Her true interest rests with the millions of workers, peasants and soldiers building up socialism from the grounds and not in the fact that the red flag was hoisted above the Kremlin. Here, a side theme of her symphony begins to develop. As in earlier articles, the goal of her analysis of Bolshevik policies—both of her appraisal and her criticism—is overcoming the ‘fatal inertia of the German masses’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 284). All of her articles on the Russian Revolution between spring 1917 and autumn 1918 asks with increasing desperation when the German proletariat will finally fulfil its historic duty for socialist revolution (Luxemburg 1974a, b, c, d, e, f). The article The Russian Tragedy (with the aforementioned note by Ernst Meyer) concludes with the words: ‘There is only one solution to the tragedy in which Russia is caught up: an uprising at the rear of German imperialism, the German mass rising, which can signal the international revolution to put an end to this genocide. At this fateful moment, preserving the honour of the Russian Revolution [in the eyes of Rosa Luxemburg this honour was endangered by the separate peace between Soviet Russia and the German Empire in Brest-Litovsk – the autors] is identical with vindicating that of the German proletariat and of international socialists’ (Luxemburg 1974g, 392). Instead at the Russian Bolsheviks, her manuscript is aimed at the ‘inertia’ of German workers. Her criticism of the Bolsheviks has the purpose to lead German workers to achieve what she sees as the true accomplishment of the Bolsheviks in Russia: mass revolutionary socialist action. But according to her this cannot be ‘called forth in the spirit of the guardianship methods of the German Social-Democracy of late-lamented memory. It can never again be conjured forth by any spotless authority, be it that of our own “higher committees” or that of “the Russian example”’

9

ROSA LUXEMBURG’S SYMPHONY …

169

(Luxemburg 2004a, 284). She is convinced that ‘not by the creation of a revolutionary hurrah-spirit, but quite the contrary: only by an insight into all the fearful seriousness, all the complexity of the tasks involved, only as a result of political maturity and independence of spirit, only as a result of a capacity for critical judgement on the part of the masses, whose capacity was systematically suppressed by the Social-Democracy for decades under various pretexts, only thus can the genuine capacity for historical action be born in the German proletariat. To concern one’s self with a critical analysis of the Russian Revolution in all its historical connections is the best training for the German and the international working class for the tasks which confront them as an outgrowth of the present situation’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 284). In summary: whereas Luxemburg’s manuscript The Russian Revolution chiefly appraises the Bolsheviks’ success in finding the right slogans to move and provide the masses with a focus towards revolutionary action, she also follows a second goal, namely to criticise Bolshevik policies precisely there where they stand against her understanding of socialism as a creation by the workers themselves. Both high esteem and harsh criticism of the historic accomplishment of the Bolsheviks are measured by the same standard. For Rosa Luxemburg, socialism always essentially depends on one thing: ‘The whole mass of the people must take part in it’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 306). This is the leitmotif of her great symphony on the Russian Revolution. While the first long part of Luxemburg’s manuscript appraises the Bolsheviks, sections III and IV concentrate on criticism. She focuses her criticism of the Bolsheviks on three central aspects: first, agrarian reform; second, the proclamation of the right of nations to self-determination and the separate peace with Germany; and third, the ‘suppression of democracy’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 299). The first two points are discussed in section III and the third point in section IV; both are nearly equally long. These are the movements two and three of Luxemburg’s symphony The Russian Revolution.

Luxemburg’s Criticism of the Bolsheviks: Too Little Socialism, Too Little Democracy Luxemburg’s critique of the Bolshevik policies is well known. We will restrict ourself to pointing to one unusual aspect of this criticism. As it were, both critical sections of her manuscript seem to oppose each other

170

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

in an unbridgeable logical contradiction. First, the Bolsheviks are criticised for their policies on easing tensions between the government and possible opponents. She develops proposals that—one must assume—would have increased resistance to the Bolsheviks. But afterwards she recommends the Bolsheviks implement radical political democratisation. Let us look at this contradiction more closely. In section III of the manuscript, the Bolsheviks are criticised for their agrarian reform and policies with regard to the ‘national question’. Rosa Luxemburg criticises the Bolsheviks’ decision to give peasants land for their own private benefit and to grant the suppressed peoples of the Russian Empire the right to self-determination. She neither wants to strengthen private property, nor national divisions. Rosa Luxemburg was very well aware that ‘as a political measure to fortify the proletarian socialist government’ the Bolshevik policy criticised by her ‘[…] was an excellent tactical move’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 290) aimed at ‘binding the many foreign peoples within the Russian Empire to the cause of the revolution’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 294f). In both cases, the Bolsheviks yielded to the pressure of a large share of the population, be it the peasants, the Finns, Estonians, Lithuanians, or Georgians and so forth. Furthermore, the so-called peace of Brest-Litovsk grew mainly out of the incapacity of the Bolsheviks to continue mobilising soldiers for the war effort. Any other policy would have, at least according to Lenin, either made it impossible for the Bolsheviks to seize power or would have led to their rapid demise. Why then did Rosa Luxemburg criticise these decisions so harshly? For Rosa Luxemburg, Bolshevik state power was to a certain degree a less pressing issue than saving the honour of the left. Although she does not say this directly, in our view we think she would have found it easier to accept the downfall of Bolshevist Russia than to witness a further betrayal of socialist ideals as had been committed by right-wing social democrats in 1914. This is especially true with regard to the prospects for socialist revolutions in Germany and Western Europe she regarded as decisive. Faced with the possibility that the Bolshevist government, which found itself in a hopeless situation in autumn 1918, might consider an alliance with the German Empire to secure its power, she wrote: ‘Russia was the one last corner where revolutionary socialism, purity of principle and ideals, still held away. It was a place to which all sincere socialist elements in Germany and Europe could look in order to find relief from the disgust they felt at the practice of the West European labour movement, in order to arm

9

ROSA LUXEMBURG’S SYMPHONY …

171

themselves with the courage to persevere and in faith in pure actions and sacred words. The grotesque ‘coupling’ of Lenin and Hindenburg would extinguish the source of moral light in the east’ (Luxemburg 1974g, 390). Whoever writes like this, with such an appeal to absolute values, makes it clear they aim for all or nothing. Although Rosa Luxemburg is aware of the political reasons behind Lenin’s policies, she nonetheless recommended the Bolsheviks follow a strategy that would have placed them even more strongly in opposition to the population, in particular to peasants, soldiers and the periphery of the former Russian Tsardom. She assumed that any real steps towards socialist policy must at least not ‘bar’ or ‘cut off’ the road leading to socialism (Luxemburg 2004a, 291). Evidently, she envisages this socialism in the context of the predominance of social property and international solidarity of peoples within a unified Soviet state. Rosa Luxemburg could not accept the strengthening of peasant private property and the bolstering of the self-determination of peoples that had already been part of the economic areas dominated by Russia. She viewed the small property owners and the new small ‘nation states’ as the natural partners of imperialism and counter-revolution. In the second movement of her symphony, to stick to this metaphor, Rosa Luxemburg recommends the Bolsheviks adopt a communist policy of centralisation and concentration of economic and political power grounded in robust socialist principles and in direct opposition to what she calls the ‘spontaneous peasant movement’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 293) and the ‘bourgeois and petty-bourgeois classes’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 295) of the suppressed nations. She sees the reasons behind the Bolshevik policies that in her view contradict socialist principles and assumes that ‘unfortunately, the calculation was entirely wrong’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 295). Historically, this turned out to be a misjudgement, even though in early autumn 1918 many facts seemed to indicate that Lenin’s government would fall. The Bolsheviks though were able to maintain power for 70 years—also thanks to the German and Austrian revolutions of November 1918, the outcomes of the civil war, and great internal and external concessions (the New Economic Policy) as well as accelerated industrialisation and expropriation of peasants (called ‘collectivisation’) in the late 1920s and early 1930s. More interesting in our context though is the fact that Rosa Luxemburg proposed measures in the second movement, which from the point of view of the Bolsheviks would have created greater opposition among

172

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

the masses of Russian peasants and the Russian periphery. Yet in the third movement, she strongly refutes precisely the measures taken by the Bolsheviks to stabilise their power in the face of already existing opposition: dictatorship and terror. It seems Rosa Luxemburg believed that it was possible to simultaneously implement a policy of the immediate socialisation of the means of production (in the city and partly in the countryside) as well as a policy of all-encompassing democratisation. Socialist democracy and the establishment of democratic socialism should go hand-in-hand (Luxemburg 2004a, 308). Rosa Luxemburg saw the separation of interests in any area of the economy as strengthening private property. Equally, she believed that allowing entire peoples to leave the imperial constructs into which they had been economically integrated constituted a division of the working class. She was also against any alliance with the internal or foreign bourgeoisie. But at the same time, she demanded freedom of speech and assembly, and elections that were open to the participation of the government’s opponents and their foreign ‘advisories’. Rigorously and fundamentally, she therefore emphasised: ‘Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution’ and that it led to ‘the dictatorship of a handful of politicians’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 307). This dictatorship she then characterises as ‘bourgeois’ precisely because it is a ‘dictatorship for a handful of persons’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 307). She justifies this again by solving the antagonism between dictatorship and democracy in her own way: ‘The proletariat, when it seizes power, can never follow the good advice of Kautsky, given on the pretext of the “unripeness of the country,” the advice being to renounce the socialist revolution and devote itself to democracy. It cannot follow this advice without betraying thereby itself, the International, and the revolution. It should and must at once undertake socialist measures in the most energetic, unyielding and unhesitant fashion, in other words, exercise a dictatorship, but a dictatorship of the class, not of a party or of a clique –dictatorship of the class, that means in the broadest public form on the basis of the most active, unlimited participation of the mass of the people, of unlimited democracy’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 307f.). Rosa Luxemburg saw the reason behind the failure of the Bolsheviks to gain broad support—and this in spite of the numerous concessions they made—alone in the fundamental opposition to socialism of the bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie and peasants. She argues that the departure

9

ROSA LUXEMBURG’S SYMPHONY …

173

from socialist principles costs the Bolsheviks the support of the masses of workers and strengthened counter-revolutionary forces. She writes: ‘Instead of warning the proletariat in the border countries against all forms of separatism as mere bourgeois traps, they did nothing but confuse the masses in all the border countries by their slogan and delivered them up to the demagogy of the bourgeois classes. By this nationalistic demand they brought on the disintegration of Russia itself, pressed into the enemy’s hand the knife which it was to thrust into the heart of the Russian Revolution’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 297).

The Anticipated Harmony of Opposites: Necessity and Freedom But how can this work? Use of the ‘iron hand’ of ‘proletarian dictatorship’ to suppress all interests not immediately in line with a socialism understood like common ownership of the means of production and ‘freedom of the press’, ‘the right to association and assembly’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 307), implementing measures in an ‘unyielding and unhesitant fashion’ while allowing ‘unlimited democracy’? Rosa Luxemburg, it appears, wants something that is impossible and she even wants it democratically. Sections III and IV—or the second and third movement of her ‘symphony’—stand in clear opposition to each other. She demands both at the same time—the suppression of all social and nation state plurality and the highest appraisal of political freedom; the struggle with an iron hand against all private possession of land and against splitting Russia and the greatest possible promotion of political freedom and democracy as the ‘living sources of all spiritual riches and progress’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 306). Historically, at least these opposites fell apart. Whereas bourgeoiscapitalist society and political democracy proved to be at least temporarily compatible, this was not the case for the type of socialism characterised by a centrally planned, nationalised economy. Rosa Luxemburg overcame these contradictions; in the end, she united them and created a vision of true harmony of the two opposed movements. This unity was only possible because she was convinced that through their everyday practices workers and the masses would change the ‘thousands of complicated difficulties’ that develop while constructing socialism into ‘unobstructed, effervescing life’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 306). ‘Social instincts in place of egotistical ones, mass initiative in place of inertia, idealism which conquers all suffering, etc., etc.’ (Luxemburg

174

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

2004a, 306) would develop. She believed that these instincts and initiatives as well as idealism would take society in exactly the direction of the form of socialism she proposed once the basic institutions of common ownership were put in place. Therefore, she could envisage that the greatest degree of freedom would lead to the greatest degree of insight into the truth of socialism as a society of socialised property, common interests, internationalism and peace. But Rosa Luxemburg also seems to have believed that the opposite too is true. By stopping peasants, if necessary by force, from privately appropriating land and forcing them into collective forms of production, by not granting national independence to the peoples of the Russian Empire but instead keeping them within a political and economic sphere where they work together in socialised factories, and participate in the development and implementation of production plans, a space for experiences develops that will lead to the acceptance of this socialism. According to her, this would lead to support for socialism and its enthusiastic defence. In particular, her discussion of the national question points in this direction. Driven by bourgeois nationalists, she believes the separation into different peoples develops into hatred. She seems to have thought that even if unity in a revolutionised country was implemented in the beginning when necessary by force, acceptance of this unity would later develop. In Rosa Luxemburg, the free action by the masses and historic necessity to create a socialist society have a tendency to go hand-in-hand. Leadership then is mainly the capacity to actively promote this development. To her, dictatorship and terror are the deadly enemies of socialism because by suppressing freedom of action by the masses they equally suppress the real agents of any enforcement of socialist demands. Dictators are the gravediggers of socialism because they bury the agents of socialism in the prison of a command society from which there can be no path towards the realm of freedom. In contrast to Lenin and Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg simply did not believe that spontaneously arising convictions would necessarily lead away from socialism and that there was therefore a need to install socialist ‘consciousness’ in the working class from outside (something Lenin was willing to do even by force). Instead, she believed that the everyday practices of workers and the working masses would lead directly to socialism—at least if such a practice were free and built on autonomous action and not on paternalism and manipulation. Furthermore, there

9

ROSA LUXEMBURG’S SYMPHONY …

175

would have to be a true unity of production and life. As Rosa Luxemburg had already argued against Lenin in 1904: ‘The Social Democratic movement is the first in the history of class societies which reckons, in all its phases and through its entire course, on the organization and the direct, independent action of the masses’ (Luxemburg 2004b, 251). To her, socialism is not a centrally planned machine. Instead, it is life, free action by free men and women united by direct cooperation.1 Should such a relation between direct experience and socialist goals—conceived as the socialisation of the means of production—really exist, then, and only then, would the dictatorship of a party and terror not only be morally wrong but also the wrong means of building political power. Rosa Luxemburg repeatedly emphasised this. What she did not realise though is that if socialism is understood as a centralised social economy then it is in direct contrast to the free action of the masses. Yet Rosa Luxemburg never critically reflected on the necessary pre-conditions for her assumptions on socialism and instead only pointed to concrete problems emerging in the Bolshevik attempt to implement socialism in post-war Russia.

Bibliography Fetscher, Iring. 1974. Proletarisches Klassenbewusstsein nach Marx und Rosa Luxemburg. In Rosa Luxemburg: Oder die Bestimmung des Sozialismus, ed. Claudio Pozzoli, 42–64. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Gorki, Maxim. 1918. Ein Jahr russische Revolution. Süddeutsche Monatshefte 16: 1–62. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1974a. Die Revolution in Russland. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, 242–245. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1974b. Der alte Maulwurf. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, 258– 264. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1974c. Zwei Osterbotschaften. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, 385–392. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1974d. Brennende Zeitfragen (1917). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, 275–290. Berlin: Karl Dietz.

1 According to Iring Fetscher, this understanding of socialism also meant for Luxemburg that ‘The rights of political freedom, which are announced by the bourgeoisie but often withdrawn again or restricted in practice, […] will by no means lose their significance in socialism. It is much rather the case that they will become decisively important for the first time’ (Fetscher 1974, 63).

176

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Luxemburg, Rosa. 1974e. Die geschichtliche Verantwortung. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, 374–379. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1974f. Der Katastrophe entgegen. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, 380–384. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1974g. Die russische Tragödie. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, 385–392. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2004a. The Russian Revolution (1918). In The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, ed. Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, 281–310. New York: Monthly Review Press. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2004b. Organizational Questions of Russian Social Democracy (1903). In The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, ed. Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, 248–265. New York: Monthly Review Press. Schütrumpf, Jörn., ed. 2017. Diktatur statt Sozialismus. Die russische Revolution und die deutsche Linke 1917/18. Berlin: Karl Dietz.

CHAPTER 10

Beyond Social Democrats and Bolsheviks

Revolutionary Leadership and Self-Empowerment In the first half of the nineteenth century, both the Chartists in England and communists in Germany believed themselves to have found, in the proletariat, the social subject that the left had been seeking for centuries in order to realise their ideas of improving the world. Later on, under Stalinism, this understanding was taken to an absurd level. On the one hand, workers still employed on shop floors and rural populations forcibly transformed into workers were, just as in early capitalism, stripped of their political rights and in some countries even increasingly exploited. On the other hand, there was an official deification of the ‘working class’, accompanied in the early stages by a particular practice in the recruitment of willing ‘cadres’: only those with a pure proletarian background were considered first-class citizens and thus suitable for the new ruling class. All others were to be mistrusted, even though many belonging to these ‘non-proletarian forces’ were simply indispensable. Such a social-reductive understanding of the proletariat is absent from the work of Rosa Luxemburg, however. For her, the working class consisted of those who engaged in and with the class against the prevailing conditions, irrespective of social background or standing. Action, not status, was her criterion. For her, class was synonymous with the movement or it was nothing. She viewed people who were reliant on wages for © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 M. Brie and J. Schütrumpf, Rosa Luxemburg, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67486-1_10

177

178

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

income but who did not participate in the movement as ‘the masses’; the task was to win them over to the movement. Yet, even she was not entirely free of a belief in the worker as the chosen one. Contrary to the secretly disillusioned SPD leadership, she expected workers to have an almost socially genetic affinity to an anticapitalist, if not revolutionary, stance. In her understanding, it was the task of politics to awaken this stance through the practices of the movement, to ‘kiss awake’ the ‘class’ as it were. She held on to this belief until her death, despite the fact that she did on occasion despair of the ‘proletarian masses’. When the parliamentary faction of the SPD agreed to war bonds on 4 August 1914 and large parts of the ‘proletarian masses’ set off to the battle field, hungry for honour and booty and decorated with wreaths, she seriously contemplated suicide1 in order to take a stand and shake up the masses. Her kindred spirit in the question of war and peace, the French socialist and pacifist Jean Jaurès, had recently been killed by French war fanatics. There, nothing happened either; just as in Germany, the ‘proletarian masses’ willingly went to their own slaughter. Historically, the left has not often been pleased with its ‘revolutionary subject’, the working class, although sociologically speaking, workers represent the majority of those who have at least temporarily warmed to revolutionary ideas or actions. Taking an international perspective, two approaches to the relationship of the left to the working class became relevant in the early twentieth century and remain worthy of analysis today: that taken by the German left as far as it concerns the circle around Rosa Luxemburg, and that of the Russian left as far as it concerns the Bolsheviks around Lenin. Both approaches interpreted the alignment of German social democracy—seen as an example for proletarian parties and movements in other countries, especially those united in the Second International—as an ‘aberration’ and ‘betrayal’ by the political leaders. They could not accept the idea that workers may not necessarily strive for socialism as a ‘class’, but rather numerically produce the most people responsive to socialist ideals. Both approaches understood the socialist-internationalist left to be the most explicitly political part of the proletariat, thus forming its political arm. And for both groups, gaining significant influence over the 1 ‘Rosa first spoke of suicide as the most visible form of protest against the betrayal of the party, the most visible warning sign for the masses of the proletariat. With all the energy we could muster, we dissuaded her’ (Eberlein 2005, 360).

10

BEYOND SOCIAL DEMOCRATS AND BOLSHEVIKS

179

working class was the precondition for an improvement of the world. For them, socialism remained a task for workers. It was not possible for them to conceptualise the movement towards socialism as anything other than a workers’ movement. The lasting merit of both groups is to have kept alive socialist thought in the political realm—as opposed to the SPD, which deemed it a normative value at most. But the two approaches were fundamentally different in one aspect. Following Karl Kautsky, Lenin argued that the proletariat could not independently become aware of the fact that it was the carrier of socialism; this consciousness would have to be introduced ‘from the outside’. For Luxemburg, by contrast, socialism was not a theory which was to be acquired and then followed like the Ten Commandments. She despised education ‘from above’, which for her ultimately contradicted the emancipatory claims of socialism. The proletariat was meant to become aware of its tasks through its own lived praxis—through the experiences of its own successes and even more so through its defeats—and thus be clear about the choice between ‘socialism or barbarism’. Luxemburg knew how, in the eighteenth century, the European Enlightenment had taken all notions that feudal rule was willed by God and virtually burnt them out of the brains of—in particular—the rising French bourgeoisie, unleashing within them an unshakable will to seize political power. Without the Enlightenment there could have been no French Revolution to blast open the way to the bourgeois age in Europe. For Luxemburg, modern domination based on the capitalist mode of production was not least domination over minds—an interplay of church, state, school, military and published opinion. For her, emancipation from all oppression and exploitation began with emancipation from this domination. This was the first, irreplaceable step towards a transformation leading to freedom and conditions without oppression. It was not the continuous numerical increase in the membership base of proletarian organisations and in voters, but an increase in workers’ self-confidence and the ability to act politically that guided her politics. The older she got, however, the more aware she became that the struggle for collective consciousness would always be accompanied by setbacks, induced on the one hand by rampant nationalism, and on the other, ironically, precisely by concessions wrested from the ruling forces. The centre of her political activity was therefore to reveal the contradictions that actually existed in society and that were becoming ever more acute. She constantly sought to drag ‘those who think otherwise’ and

180

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

their real intentions and actions into public view and thus to force them to defend themselves publicly—to confront the ruling class, something they still hate to this day like the devil hates holy water. With her attacks on militarism, she struck the Wilhelmine system in its most sensitive area. Luxemburg followed the maxim that those who do not attack will be attacked. For her, although it was of course always denied and veiled in public, a permanent war was in full swing, waged by the ruling forces against the ‘rest of society’—by peaceful means and, given the chance, using terror. Her interest lay with people who learn to overcome their powerlessness through common action, who through participation in the movement become aware of their own strength, and in this way, partaking in the struggles of the day, become aware of their own unalienated interests. In Luxemburg’s mind, that was the function of the political mass strike. She was not interested in this form of struggle ‘in itself’. To her, the political mass strike was synonymous with a whole palette of actions by which the proletarian masses empower themselves in the fight against the dominant, increasingly chauvinistic economic and political regime, and thus also emancipate themselves from their subordination to their leaders’ paternal rule. To Luxemburg, the socialist workers’ movement was not first and foremost the struggle for better living conditions waged by unions—even though she understood the significance of this struggle and in no way sought to diminish it—but rather the struggle to extend political rights and freedoms, which Luxemburg wished to complement through the addition of social rights and freedoms. She spoke out against the practice of the Bolsheviks, who proclaimed social rights and freedoms—but often managed nothing more than to smash private property in the means of production, not infrequently by murdering property owners—in 1918: We have never been idol worshippers of formal democracy. All that that really means is: We have always distinguished the social kernel from the political form of bourgeois democracy; we have always revealed the hard kernel of social inequality and lack of freedom hidden under the sweet shell of formal equality and freedom – not in order to reject the latter but to spur the working class into not being satisfied with the shell, but rather, by conquering political power, to create a socialist democracy to replace bourgeois democracy – not to eliminate democracy altogether. But socialist democracy is not something which begins only in the promised

10

BEYOND SOCIAL DEMOCRATS AND BOLSHEVIKS

181

land after the foundations of socialist economy are created; it does not come as some sort of Christmas present for the worthy people who, in the interim, have loyally supported a handful of socialist dictators. Socialist democracy begins simultaneously with the beginnings of the destruction of class rule and of the construction of socialism. It begins at the very moment of the seizure of power by the socialist party. It is the same thing as the dictatorship of the proletariat. Yes, dictatorship! But this dictatorship consists in the manner of applying democracy, not in its elimination, in energetic, resolute attacks upon the well entrenched rights and economic relationships of bourgeois society, without which a socialist transformation cannot be accomplished. But this dictatorship must be the work of the class and not of a little leading minority in the name of the class – that is, it must proceed step by step out of the active participation of the masses; it must be under their direct influence, subjected to the control of complete public activity; it must arise out of the growing political training of the mass of the people. (Luxemburg 2004a, 308)

For Luxemburg, the path to this metamorphosis led via the expansion of political rights and freedoms which had to be wrested from the ruling forces—in other words, through self-empowerment—with the goal of shifting the balance of power to such a degree that the ruling side would be less and less able to maintain its position by means of lies. Along this path, the latter would have to be disempowered to such a degree that it would become more and more difficult for them to use violence. Luxemburg knew that violence only works when the majority is paralysed or indifferent—whether through fear or bread and circuses. Intelligent public offensives with continual re-grouping of the movement’s own forces was, for her, the only sustainable form both of propaganda and self-education—something completely different to the politics by proxy that was the norm on the left in her time and remains so today. At the end of her life she downright despised those leftists who were incapable of making any use of a more or less liberal situation than the one all the other politicians were busy with: bourgeois backroom politics. For Luxemburg, the point was to depart from the bourgeois political circus and ever more effectively drive the inhumane and antisocial tendencies of this society dominated by the capitalist mode of production into public consciousness, and to do so in a way that was completely public, always testable and, of course, itself also always vulnerable.

182

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Her demand for ‘freedom for those who think otherwise’—which the ruling class and its ideologues regularly denounced as a sham—was in deadly earnest; not for superficially moral reasons or a stupid, suicidal fairness. Her concern was for freedom for those on all sides and not, for example, freedom ‘for the revolutionary class’, for the workers—a demand that has survived among a certain species of leftist, particularly within the post-Stalinist left, up until today. As a natural scientist, which Luxemburg also was, she understood society as something organic, as a living organism. Society can only be durably changed when all struggles are carried out in public; for that it is necessary that every player have their freedom. Everything else struck her as absurd. She was a step ahead of most left-wing politicians in recognising that freedom for those who think otherwise is what first makes emancipatory politics possible at all. Nothing seemed to her to pose more of a threat to emancipation than restrictions of any kind. For Luxemburg, emancipation with anti-emancipatory means and methods, the Leninist conception of politics, in other words—which later communists would often justify by reference to ‘unfavourable conditions’ and, even more commonly, the ‘unreadiness of the masses’—would have represented a direct challenge to her political approach. She clearly saw that only by working through the contradictions can the ‘rest of society’ become aware of how it is oppressed and exploited and thus free itself from the domination exercised over people’s minds. She was deeply convinced that everything artificial, all relations authored ‘from above’ either lead to rule by terror—because relations created in this way can only be maintained through oppression and ultimately terror—or they prove to be unviable. The history of the socialism of the twentieth century has shown that there is no third way that leads between these two poles; the years since its disappearance have demonstrated just how ‘sustainably’ socialism was anchored in society, even after decades of its existence. Luxemburg stood for sustainable changes: The socialist system of society should only be, and can only be, an historical product, born out of the school of its own experiences, born in the course of its realization, as a result of the developments of living history, whichjust like organic nature of which, in the last analysis, it forms a part-has the fine habit of always producing along with any real social need the means to

10

BEYOND SOCIAL DEMOCRATS AND BOLSHEVIKS

183

its satisfaction, along with the task simultaneously the solution. However, if such is the case, then it is clear that socialism by its very nature cannot be decreed or introduced by ukase. It has as its prerequisite a number of measures of force-against property, etc. The negative, the tearing down, can be decreed; the building up, the positive, cannot. New territory. A thousand problems. Only experience is capable of correcting and opening new ways. Only unobstructed, effervescing life falls into a thousand new forms and improvisations, brings to light creative force, itself corrects all mistaken attempts. The public life of countries with limited freedom is so poverty-stricken, so miserable, so rigid, so unfruitful, precisely because, through the exclusion of democracy, it cuts off the living sources of all spiritual riches and progress. (Luxemburg 2004a, 306)

With reference to Luxemburg’s understanding of revolution—and in opposition to Lenin and Trotsky’s practice of revolutionary terror—Paul Levi provided the following summary in 1922: ‘She understood how to lead the struggle as a struggle, war as war, civil war as civil war. But at the same time, she could not conceive of the civil war other than as a free play of forces, in which not even the members of the bourgeoisie are arrested and locked up in dungeons, since the masses were only able to expand and to recognize the greatness and the significance of their struggle when that struggle was an open one. She wished for the annihilation of the bourgeoisie through the barrenness of terrorism, through the monotonous business of execution, no more than the hunter wishes to annihilate the predators in his forest. The struggle against the latter is meant to make the game stronger and larger. For her, the annihilation of the bourgeoisie, which she did also wish for, would be the result of the social re-organization that the word “revolution” signifies’ (Levi 1990, 224). Self-empowerment through completely public action, attack, defence and learning: that was her political watchword. She was of the opinion that setbacks would be the movement’s greatest teachers. Of course, only if they were not glossed over; covering up one’s own weaknesses and mistakes, she thought, led to self-disempowerment. Education was of central importance to her—together with Franz Mehring, she founded the SPD academy and also taught there. However, she understood education not as a means to ‘repair a lack of consciousness’, i.e. impose doctrine onto somebody, but as an aid to self-help. That is why she envisioned a different function for the party to the one presupposed by the German Social Democracy, on the one hand, and the

184

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Russian Bolsheviks on the other. While for the social democrats the party had shifted more and more to become an electoral machine tasked with conquering as many seats in parliament as possible and, in the wake of the electoral defeat of 1907, prepared to make more and more concessions to chauvinism and militarism in Germany, for the Bolsheviks the party was an apparatus tasked with seizing power during a revolution in order to eradicate the evils of all of history. Ultimately, the relationship of both organisations to the class for which they acted became more instrumental and paternal the more they experienced success. Luxemburg was horrified by both of them. The party should make suggestions to the workers but leave the decisions up to them—even if this meant rejection, which was to be accepted, even and especially following a successful revolution. Lenin could not forgive her for this ‘aberration’. His attitude towards her remained ambivalent. He sharply criticised her on all points where she had deviated from his position. And at the same time, for him she was part of the communist legacy. Years after her death, he pronounced in the dispute with Paul Levi: 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. (Lenin 1973, 210)

One problem that naturally concerned her as a supporter of revolutionary social change was the question of revolution. It is precisely on this point that falsehoods are still traded today. A particularly perfidious one is that she endorsed terrorism.2 In fact, the opposite was true: ‘During the 2 The newspaper Tägliche Rundschau wrote in the evening of 16 January 1919 on its frontpage: ‘Blood cried out for blood! The bloodbath that Liebknecht and Luxemburg

10

BEYOND SOCIAL DEMOCRATS AND BOLSHEVIKS

185

bourgeois revolutions, bloodshed, terror, and political murder were an indispensable weapon in the hand of the rising classes. The proletarian revolution has no need of terror in pursuing its purposes; it hates and abhors the murder of human beings. It has no need of this means of struggle, because it attacks institutions, not individuals, and enters the arena without naïve illusions for whose disappointment it would need to seek bloody vengeance. It is the action of the great mass of the people in its millions, not the desperate attempt of a minority to use violence to model the world according to its ideals’ (Luxemburg 2004b, 352). And—a second point—she knew precisely what she didn’t want: any form of Blanquism. Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805–1881), who spent most of his life in prison, had developed the idea of a highly organised secret order which would take power through a putsch and thus bring about socialism. Luxemburg first accused Lenin and the Bolsheviks of Blanquism in 1904: she saw Lenin’s new party, the Bolshevik party of professional revolutionaries, as being more a Blanquist party than a workers’ one, a party that would disregard the interests of labour if it was politically opportune. Rosa Luxemburg would be proven right in this regard to an extent that even she would not have been able to foresee. Following Trotsky’s initiative, they created a new military power that was subordinate to them, the Red Army, thus giving themselves a social and political power base. Despite the extermination of the entire leadership in 1938, the Red Army, alongside the Stalinist party and state apparatus and the secret police, remained the cornerstone of Bolshevik rule until 1991. Lenin’s understanding of the revolution was not just oriented towards power but also mechanical: with a party of struggle, the breakthrough in a revolutionary situation was meant to occur at the point in society that was easiest to change. This point was state power, which was to be conquered and never to be surrendered again. Subsequently, society was—with the aide of state power—meant to be transformed from above, starting with property relations. What had appeared divine in theory produced a practice far more profane: really existing socialism. It went through three had brought about demanded expiation. It came quickly and, in Luxemburg’s case, was cruel but just. The Galician was beaten to death. The people’s anger, grown powerful and monstrous, demanded revenge’. Johannes Fischart [i.e. Erich Dombrowski, head columnist of the Berliner Tageblatt ] stated: ‘Woe, now it had been unleashed! […] Civil war rages in Berlin and, as the powder-keg exploded in Berlin, Bloody Rosa entered the Empire in order to throw a flaming torch into the excited masses here also. /Wild rose, wild rose, wild rose red: Germany is in flames’ (see in detail Schütrumpf 2018, 69).

186

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

phases: a revolutionary one until 1927/1928, a totalitarian one until 1953 and a final phase characterised by a slowly disintegrating bureaucratic dictatorship until 1989/1991. In the end, it collapsed like a hollow tree. In contrast, Luxemburg had a deep respect for all forms of life. As a botanist and an admirer of nature in all its forms, her thinking was organically composed rather than mechanical. Where Lenin planned and organised for the big breakthrough, she was instead concerned with those lasting transformations that are not so easily reversible as the seizing of political power. She did not want power to be taken by a small group, or the minority to rule over the majority. She wanted to see a maturing and emancipation of the working class—to the point where the class itself forged its own path to power. It was clear to Luxemburg that this transition would have to be managed by means of a ‘revolutionary realpolitik’ that would apply all available means, reforms not least of all. She considered a violent revolution very likely, even if it not necessarily desirable. How she anticipated conducting herself in a revolution is something she avoided committing herself on in advance. This was the major difference between her and Lenin, who knew exactly what he wanted: to take power at the first favourable opportunity, and to take all of it—and then to see what would transpire. And there was a second difference between them—in the question of the organisational split from the social democrats. While the Bolsheviks saw the starting point of all revolutionary practice in the issue of organisation, and acted accordingly, Luxemburg had drawn the opposite conclusion from the Russian revolution of 1905 to 1907. In her view, the left would do best to remain in the major social democratic parties and in that way close to the workers. Otherwise, it risked declining into sectarian insignificance. For this reason, she vehemently refused to leave the SPD, despite the parliamentary party’s consenting to the war bonds. It is true that with Franz Mehring she formed the Gruppe International, soon re-named the Spartacus League, but she did this inside the social democracy movement. When the SPD split on the issue of war or peace in 1917, Luxemburg and her friends, all of them less than thrilled and persisting in their political independence, joined the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD). Luxemburg felt that a party of their own would be detrimental. In her opinion, should it come to a revolution then the movement of the masses

10

BEYOND SOCIAL DEMOCRATS AND BOLSHEVIKS

187

would produce the appropriate organisational forms—as with the soviets in Russia in 1905. In 1921, the Spartacus League’s economic expert Paul Lange, a confidant of Leo Jogiches and Luxemburg, bore witness to the fact that even after the revolution had broken out in Germany, Luxemburg only gave up her reticence towards founding a party of their own when the risk that the Bolsheviks would set up their own German communist party with the help of left-wing radicals in Bremen, Hamburg and Dresden had become inescapable. Lange wrote: ‘If the merger of the Spartacus League with the German Leninists through the founding of the Communist Party did take place, then that had less to do with the inner desires of Luxemburg and Jogiches and more with the intention to prevent the emergence of a new party alongside the Spartacus League’ (Lange 2017, 47).

Revolution in Russia---An Alternative Strategy One of the fractures on the left within and—to an even greater degree— beyond the Russian Empire emerged over the issue of what shape a further revolution might take. After the 1905 revolution, which had not even given birth to ‘a wretched constitutional polity’, something Luxemburg had at least considered possible when it broke out, the next revolution was only a question of time—an object of longing for some, a source of worry and fear for others. Led by Julius Martov, the Mensheviks, though by no means uniform in their ideology, proceeded in the most ‘Marxist’ way. Since in all of Russia’s vastness capitalist industrial production and the proletariat had settled only a few pockets—the industrial cities in Poland and Latvia, as well as Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Baku, some regions of the Caucasus and the Urals—socialism could not be on the agenda, they thought, but rather the supersession, by means of a bourgeois revolution led by the liberal middle-class, of a non-society that persisted, for the most part, in semi-Asiatic, feudal barbarism. Given the bourgeois character of the revolution, Russia’s social democrats, in any case more an import from Western Europe’s social democracy movement than the political expression of an independent proletarian movement in Russia, ought in their view to give the liberals a leg up, and at best play the role of junior partner, but under no circumstances should they take the lead themselves.

188

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Lenin and the hardly less heterogeneous Bolsheviks, on the other hand, viewed the appearance of ‘liberal heroes’ on the stage of the revolution— à la the period of 1789 onwards in France—as an antiquated illusion. From their perspective, even the revolution of 1848/1849 had shown that the liberals’ fear of being forced against the wall by the proletariat closing in behind them would render their aversion to any kind of political upheaval overwhelming, leading them to subordinate their own interests in case of any doubt. For this reason, Lenin argued for proletarian hegemony, a point on which he coincided not only with Trotsky, who so often sought to mediate between enemy camps and so often fell between two stools, but also with Luxemburg. Trotsky, however, believed that a future Russian revolution would take on more proletarian characteristics, whereas on this point Luxemburg agreed with the Mensheviks. Lenin, too, assumed that the revolution would have a bourgeois character. In this respect Lenin remained entirely a student of Kautsky. He manoeuvred in a similar way; like Kautsky, his movements were always tentative—though Kautsky navigated with increasingly contradictory intentions. In this way Lenin, the ‘dogmatist of anti-dogmatism’ (as Paul Levi, ever the ironist, put it), opened a path for the later dogmatists of anti-morality that they would come to call Marxism-Leninism, although in Lenin’s case this was a side-effect and doubtless unintended. None of the four tendencies—represented by the Mensheviks, Bolsheviks, Trotsky and Luxemburg—had illusions about the weakness of the puny Russian industrial proletariat. Rather they disagreed in their attitudes towards the majority of the population in Russia, the landless peasants. The Mensheviks saw them as buttressing Tsarist reaction, while Lenin guessed they might represent a potentially revolutionary force, which is why he argued for a ‘democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’. Trotsky, himself the son of a peasant, also wanted an alliance with the landless peasantry, but saw them not as a revolutionary force but rather as ‘an amorphous, scattered mass, with narrow local interests, incapable of co-ordinated national action’ (Deutscher 1970, 156). But he believed the proletariat would liberate the peasantry, which would then fall in behind the proletariat—just as the peasants of France once followed Napoleon as long as he protected them from the return of the erstwhile landed nobility. However, if the counterrevolutionaries were banished, Trotsky continued, Russia’s peasantry would turn against the ruling proletariat—which, however, would be able to spy rescue on the horizon in the form of an uprising of the proletariat in Western Europe. That was

10

BEYOND SOCIAL DEMOCRATS AND BOLSHEVIKS

189

the core of Trotsky’s theory of a ‘permanent revolution’, borrowed from Marx’s thinking of the 1850s. In 1917 the Bolsheviks did indeed bet on this horse, on the proletariat of Western Europe, with well-known results. Their permanent revolution (they did not call it that) ultimately remained isolated, but defended itself heroically, at the price of setting free not democratic socialism but a form of paternalistic bureaucratic rule that would continue to discredit the socialist idea to the present day. Since the 1890s, Luxemburg had repeatedly warned against the revolution slipping into the dictatorship of a minority. Nothing appeared worse to her than to gamble away socialism’s moral credit, since without such credit, the socialist line of thought clearly remains nothing other than a sectarian ideology. Besides, unlike Trotsky, in conceiving of revolution Luxemburg looked not to the Marx of the 1850s but to Engels in 1895: All revolutions up to the present day have resulted in the displacement of one definite class rule by another; all ruling classes up till now have been only minorities as against the ruled mass of the people. A ruling minority was thus overthrown; another minority seized the helm of state and remodelled the state apparatus in accordance with its own interests. This was on every occasion the minority group, able and called to rule by the degree of economic development, and just for that reason, and only for that reason, it happened that the ruled majority either participated in the revolution on the side of the former or else passively acquiesced in it. But if we disregard the concrete content of each occasion, the common form of all these revolutions was that they were minority revolutions. Even where the majority took part, it did so – whether wittingly or not – only in the service of a minority; but because of this, or simply because of the passive, unresisting attitude of the majority, this minority acquired the appearance of being the representative of the whole people. As a rule, after the first great success, the victorious minority became divided; one half was pleased with what had been gained, the other wanted to go still further, and put forward new demands, which, to a certain extent at least, were also in the real or apparent interests of the great mass of the people. In individual cases these more radical demands were realized, but often only for the moment; the more moderate party again gained the upper hand, and what had eventually been won was wholly or partly lost again; the vanquished shrieked of treachery, or ascribed their defeat to accident. But in truth the position was mainly this: the achievements of the first victory were only safeguarded by the second victory of the more radical party; this having been attained, and, with it, what was necessary

190

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

for the moment, the radicals and their achievements vanished once more from the stage. (Engels 1990, 510f.)

Luxemburg knew that revolutions do not lead automatically to social progress, because the crucial test of every revolution is its Thermidor, i.e. the—inevitable—moment when the backlash occurs. Revolutions only break out in societies in which civil society mechanisms enabling the negotiation of conflicting interests between different social and political forces are either completely absent or have lost their former effectiveness, and at best live on in meaningless rituals. Revolutions are the exceptions in history, in which pent-up political and social tensions find their release, sometimes downright explosively. Whether revolution become ‘locomotives of history’ (Marx 1978, 122), however, is only decided at its end, in answer to the question of whether the revolution will return to or even regress back beyond its starting point, i.e. of whether the prevailing conditions will become even more reactionary than before the revolution—the examples from recent non-European history speak for themselves—or whether the backlash will come to a halt before it has reached the starting point. It is at this point that it is decided whether a revolution is perceived and assessed as victorious or a failure. That’s why Luxemburg argued for a maximum swing of the revolution to the left, right up to a dictatorship of the proletariat—in the clear awareness that this would not be able to hold. In Luxemburg’s understanding, the function of the dictatorship was not first and foremost to liberate socialist elements, but to dampen the effect of the backlash. The French Revolution of 1789 had shown that only with the Jacobin dictatorship—which pushed changes out beyond what was possible for society in non-revolutionary times—did the liberation of bourgeois, capitalist conditions become irreversible in France. Only when changes are pushed out beyond what is possible for society in non-revolutionary times are counter-forces intimidated to the extent that they will agree to any compromise at all, as long as it prevents a further revolutionary push. The guillotine was certainly not decommissioned at the end of the French Revolution, but it was removed from the public space of the Champ de Mars into much more discreet dungeon facilities. Without political freedoms—without the freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, the freedom to associate and form organisations, in short: without a public sphere that is politically and juridically secured by a constitutional state—any struggle for socialism

10

BEYOND SOCIAL DEMOCRATS AND BOLSHEVIKS

191

remained, for Luxemburg, an absurdity. Since in Russia liberalism was already tired of revolution at the moment when it emerged, its function would have to be taken over by a temporary dictatorship of the proletariat that, by establishing a constitutional, bourgeois, capitalist order, would create the ground on which the struggle for socialism would become at all possible. Luxemburg had already described this scenario while analysing the first Russian Revolution: Of course, in its struggle the proletariat must not succumb to illusions as to the duration of its rule in society. After the present revolution is over, after society returns to “normal” conditions, in the first phase the majority of what has been achieved in the present revolutionary struggle will doubtless be cast aside and done away with through the dominance of the bourgeoisie within both the factories and the state. It is therefore all the more important that the proletariat break open the widest breaches in the present state of things, that it revolutionize the conditions inside the factories and society as far as possible. The further the social democracy movement can advance the revolutionary wave towards the political dictatorship of the proletariat, the less will the bourgeoisie be in a position immediately after the revolution to forcibly roll back what has been achieved. (Luxemburg 2015a, 208)

And in 1908, after the revolution had been thrust back to its point of departure, externally at least: But to now worry that the present revolution might retain the “bourgeois” character that is intrinsic to it, is, for the proletariat, an entirely superfluous undertaking. The bourgeois character is expressing itself because the proletariat is incapable of staying in power, because sooner or later it will be put down by counter-revolutionary agencies, by the bourgeoisie, by landowners, the petite bourgeoisie and large sections of the peasantry. It is also possible that subsequent to the demise of the proletariat the republic itself will fall and the lengthy rule of a deeply moderate constitutional monarchy begin in its place. That is eminently possible. But the class situation just happens to be such that in Russia even the road to a moderate monarchical constitution passes via a republican dictatorship of the proletariat. (Luxemburg 2015b, 264)

192

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

How the Bolsheviks ‘Won’ the Revolution and Made Luxemburg’s Nightmares Come True Lenin was not prepared to put up with that sort of ‘defeatism’, and didn’t think much of setbacks even if they were said to be the pre-condition for the proletariat organising itself and developing its self-consciousness; instead, Lenin put more store in breakthroughs and—direct routes. When they threw themselves into the struggle in 1917, Lenin and the Bolsheviks were interested in one aspect of the Russian Revolution above all: its function—according to their hopes—as the opening revolution for a storm of proletarian socialism across Europe, at the end of which a post-capitalist society, founded on social freedoms for all, would, they thought, have been established. As a ‘national’ revolution, the Russian Revolution was, at the beginning at least, completely uninteresting to these cosmopolitans, especially since they knew that this Russia would not allow the establishment of a democratic state, let alone socialism. Lenin had long realised, however, that the Russian proletariat, if it ever did seize power, would not be able to retain it even in combination with the politically much more experienced Polish proletariat—represented, among others, by Jogiches and Luxemburg. Nonetheless, he believed he had found a brilliant way out of the dilemma: he argued for an alliance of fire and water, of the proletariat and the peasantry. Although the Russian Revolution failed to fulfil the hopes that it would open a season of successful international revolutions, through their victory in the civil war the Bolsheviks completed their national task. However, with this victory they pushed the contradiction between social and political hegemony, which dwells inside every radical revolution (Kossok 2016, 46), to a breaking point. A social hegemon, the ‘principal’ in other words—in the case of the Russian Revolution this was, up until 1921, the proletariat—never exercises political hegemony as a whole; this is done either by activist groups such as, in the French Revolution, the Gironde from 1791 to 1793 and the Jacobins in 1793/1794, and in the Russian Revolution the Bolsheviks from 1917 to 1921. Alternatively, the military ‘substitutes’ itself for an absent or overly weak bourgeoisie. As ‘Jacobins with the people’ (Lenin), the Bolsheviks had achieved something of which even they would initially not have thought themselves capable. Like the French revolutionaries of 1789 onwards, they had used the war to deepen the revolution, thereby stabilising further and further the interest that the workers, but above all the peasants, took in

10

BEYOND SOCIAL DEMOCRATS AND BOLSHEVIKS

193

winning the civil war. With victory in the civil war in 1920, the Bolsheviks had achieved everything that was to be achieved in this revolution and were thus ripe for their Thermidor. Because in the view of the social hegemon—the revolutionary workers, who were certainly interested in a dictatorship of the proletariat, but not in a dictatorship of the Bolsheviks—the results of the revolution had been secured by victory in the civil war. The rule of the Bolsheviks now seemed superfluous, especially since with the establishment of their party dictatorship they had unilaterally revoked the proletarian consensus, according to which society was to be democratised via a system of directly elected councils and the socialist mode of production was to be implemented as the pre-condition of the social freedom of all. The backlash against the revolution did not originate with the liberals or the Tsarist forces—they had been decimated in the civil war—but from the Bolsheviks’ elite fighting force: the Kronstadt sailors and workers; Trotsky had once referred to them as ‘the glory and the pride of the revolution’. But the Kronstadt uprising against party dictatorship was defeated; in March 1921 the Bolsheviks drowned their erstwhile Praetorian Guard in its own blood. This defeat of the workers revealed all the weakness of what had hitherto been the social hegemon, and indicated that even if the workers had not been defeated by the political hegemons, the Bolsheviks, they would never have been able to maintain their social hegemony, and would, after the revolution had pulled them out of insignificance for four years, have been cast back into it at the next moment by the masses of peasants pressing up behind them. For with the victory in the civil war the peasant masses had also lost any interest in further Bolshevik rule—just as they had lost interest in any further alliance with the former social hegemon, the workers, once the latter had been defeated. Peasant uprisings broke out across the country. Thus the Leninist escape route—the alliance of fire and water, of proletariat and landless peasantry—had proved to be a dead end. Although the alliance had definitely held firm throughout the anti-feudal breakthrough, it was not suited to circumventing the backlash against the revolution in the way Lenin had envisaged. With their victory over the former ‘principal’, the Bolsheviks had not only gained nothing, they had lost everything. In spring 1921, they had become isolated: having first alienated the original ‘principal’, the urban

194

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

working class, and then driven it away, they now carried on their association with their former allies through violence, along the barrel of a gun. Peasant uprisings can be put down, which is what the Bolsheviks did in spring 1921, but they were soon forced to realise that ‘out of the barrel of a gun grows the most effective command […] what can never grow out of it is power’ (Arendt 1970, 70).3 However, since the Bolsheviks were unwilling to give up political rule voluntarily (and possibly were not at all able to do so), their victory left no other option than to put themselves in the service of the strongest social force, the peasantry, and to invite investment—though in vain—from the international section of the bourgeoisie, which at the national level had largely been exterminated. The state-directed market economy that emerged cannot be summarised in a sentence, but it was called the ‘New Economic Policy’ (NEP). Not since Pyrrhus’s time has there been a stranger victory. Thus the Russian Revolution experienced its reversal, its Thermidor, not just once, but twice at the very outset: as a proletarian Thermidor— which inevitably failed—and as a Thermidor with which the viable results of the revolution, namely the agrarian revolution, were secured, carried out by the revolutionaries themselves and therefore constituted (for the time being) a—‘dry Thermidor’: The ‘Thermidor of the Russian Revolution […] is distinguished from other Thermidors neither by its content nor by its effects, but only by its form. It was a ‘dry’ Thermidor. It proceeded quietly and peacefully in the bosom and the organization of the Bolsheviks. Not, admittedly, without immediately showing its Gorgon’s head to the working class: in Kronstadt. The effects, however, were the same is those of its bigger brother. […] March 1921 dealt a double blow to the Russian working class. It delivered the class into the hands of the peasants and, in their wake, the racketeers and speculators and, in their wake, the big capitalists. At the same time it relieved them of their leaders, by turning yesterday’s Jacobins into today’s Thermidorians. (Levi 1922, 226)

Angelica Balabanoff, who co-founded the Communist International in 1919 and was officially its leader, accepted the implications, quietly resigned from power and returned ‘home’ into exile. A few years before 3 That was Hannah Arendt’s answer to Mao Tse-tung’s declaration: ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun’ (Mao Tse-tung 1965, 224).

10

BEYOND SOCIAL DEMOCRATS AND BOLSHEVIKS

195

her death, she wrote: ‘Today I would be guilty of having collaborated in countless crimes against humanity, in the betrayal of socialism, in countless despicable deeds. By becoming a socialist, I had sworn loyalty to the victims of social injustice, but I would have neither the right nor the courage to look them in the eye. […] Forced to exist like that, to live how the Bolsheviks do, surrounded by flatterers, enjoying privileges of every kind, and earning the curses of their countless, tortured victims, by my presence to take on responsibility for their outrages, that would have been my – terrible – punishment’ (Balabanoff 2018, 117f.). The Bolsheviks had fallen into the trap that Friedrich Engels had already described in 1850 in his ‘black utopia’: The worst thing that can befall a leader of an extreme party is to be compelled to take over a government in an epoch when the movement is not yet ripe for the domination of the class which he represents and for the realisation of the measures which that domination would imply. What he can do depends not upon his will but upon the sharpness of the clash of interests between the various classes, and upon the degree of development of the material means of existence, the relations of production and means of communication upon which the clash of interests of the classes is based every time. What he ought to do, what his party demands of him, does not depend upon him either, but nor does it depend upon the degree of development of the class struggle and its conditions; he is bound to his doctrines and the demands hitherto propounded which do not emanate from the interrelations of the social classes at a given moment, or from the more or less accidental level of relations of production and means of communication, but from his more or less penetrating insight into the general result of the social and political movement. Thus he necessarily finds himself in a dilemma. What he can do is in contrast to all his actions as hitherto practised, to all his principles and to the present interests of his party; what he ought to do cannot be achieved. In a word, he is compelled to represent not his party or his class, but the class for whom conditions are ripe for domination. In the interests of the movement itself, he is compelled to defend the interests of an alien class, and to feed his own class with phrases and promises, with the assertion that the interests of that alien class are their own interests. Whoever puts himself in this awkward position is irrevocably lost. (Engels 1978, 469)4

4 Although Isaac Deutscher is unable to interpret the opposition between the social hegemon, the Russian working class, and the political hegemon, the Bolsheviks, in terms

196

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

But the nature of the Bolsheviks’ relationship to the class they wished to help liberate was only made manifest by the crushing of the proletarian Thermidor at Kronstadt. From the outset, both the Bolsheviks’ strength and their weakness lay in their understanding of what it meant to be a vanguard. Levi, the first chair of the KPD after Luxemburg’s murder, who was expelled in 1921 from the party he led on account of his refusal to hand it over to the Bolsheviks, described it in this way: If the Bolsheviks had never done anything other than carry out the dictatorship of the proletariat, they would never have fallen as low as they now have. But they did do something else. Not only did they assert the dictatorship of the proletariat against an enemy class, they also began firstly to ‘lead’ the proletariat, then to steer it, then to push it back onto the right path, then to lecture it, then to drill it, then to command it, then to shake it, then to torment it, then to terrorize it in the name of the ‘dictatorship’. In this completely perverse and mistaken theory of the ‘role of the party’, of the omnipotence of a central committee in the party, of the godlike quality of a few big shots – in this lay the alpha and omega of that which is now taking place in Russia. It is not that socialism […] was bankrupted in Russia: bankruptcy became the thing in Russia. The proletariat is a large, strong body, with more tremendous powers than any other class. What a strong body needs in order to rule, the will to power, is not something that another can give it; it has to create it itself from a thousand-year play of a thousand cells and molecules, each of which has a life of its own. That is the role of democracy within the working class and the party: to form this will. (Levi 2016, 1157)

For the new social hegemons—for the peasantry and the bourgeoisie in reconstruction—the Bolsheviks were anything but ideal partners. The relationship between the social and the political hegemon was nothing less than antagonistic—a temporary alliance, which would hold for as long as the Bolsheviks did not appear to be able to be dislodged from power. The Bolsheviks, for their part, very well aware of this, lived in constant fear of a further Thermidor and were only able to come up with one remedy: they made violence permanent. The ‘social state of exception became “normality”. Power was not only the “midwife” [Marx] of the new society, it remained its crucial means of support’ (Kossok 2016, 45).

of revolutionary theory, he describes very vividly how this opposition became so intractable that the Bolsheviks had to look for a new social hegemon (cf. Deutscher 1970, 486–522).

10

BEYOND SOCIAL DEMOCRATS AND BOLSHEVIKS

197

Of course, the Bolsheviks knew that it would be difficult with violence alone; that—Napoleon was the first to point this out—one could do many things with bayonets, but there was one thing one couldn’t do: sit on them. For this reason, once an end had been put to the revolution from below (by crushing the Kronstadt Thermidor), the Bolsheviks switched by means of a Thermidor of their own (by changing their tune to incorporate the NEP) to a dance ‘above all classes’, continuing to rule as Bonapartists. We can only speculate how it would have continued, had Stalin and his group not broken this development off in 1928. Stalin had no need to invent any of what now emerged: It must be admitted that without Lenin there would have been no Stalin, even if the latter was only a caricature of the founder of the Bolsheviks. Everything repulsive in him that appeared during his dictatorship had been promoted and encouraged by the regime in which he lived, acted and ruled. In someone like Stalin, the regime Lenin founded and the apparatus he created stirred up all the base instincts while placing neither inhibitions nor even resistance in their way. The atmosphere of autocracy, of arbitrary rule and terror fostered the sadistic tendencies of the future dictator, fuelled his vanity and escalated it beyond measure. However, Stalin was no innovator; intellectually speaking, he was a nullity – a faithful disciple, an epigone, not a pathbreaker. The intuitions of the Bolsheviks as theory, but also the application of methods that stand in contradiction to socialism, were Lenin’s work; Stalin merely appropriated them, forming the negative that they contained even more intensely and distributing it universally. (Balabanoff 2018, 165)

Stalin’s strength consisted in recognising approaching dangers and in fighting them at a stage when they were still able to be controlled. In 1927, the peasantry’s first grain boycotts announced that the Bolsheviks’ era of Bonapartism was approaching its end. With that, it was once again time to replace the social hegemon—time for the ‘Stalinist Revolution’, which at the time was dubbed the ‘Second Revolution’. The result was a mixed economy. Under the sign of collectivisation, state slavery in work camps, particularly in extractive industries, mushroomed. Those peasants who did not become the victims of starvation or murder—more recent calculations speak of more than 10 million dead— were press-ganged into a second serfdom, compared with which the second serfdom in Prussia was a downright paragon of humanity.

198

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Those who weren’t hauled in front of a firing squad, or weren’t made to vegetate away in state slavery or serfdom, or hadn’t starved to death, could count themselves lucky if they were allowed to do wage labour— certainly not, of course, as doubly free wage labourers. Compared with the earthen huts that many of those who built the new cities in the early years had to dig out, the inhospitable kommunalkas 5 in the traditional industrial areas were almost a privilege. The domestic bourgeoisie, which had begun to re-form after 1921, was treated similarly to the peasantry. The funds set free in this way were channelled into heavy industry. The new social hegemon now coincided with the political one. The Bolsheviks had produced their own class: the ‘new class’, as the Yugoslav communist Milovan Djilas called them (Djilas 1957). They sat at the levers of power: as functionaries within the state apparatus, in business, administration, the military, the secret police… Socialism in Bolshevik colours did not imply collective solidarity to win emancipation from every kind of exploitation and oppression—which was originally the meaning of socialism, of course—but rather a chance at individual social climbing on offer to at least some of those who were willing. The ‘new class’ enjoyed its victory, even when in 1932/1933 millions of human beings starved following ‘successful collectivization’. This was because ‘new class’ meant: Pajok (rations for the privileged), which meant: survival—at least for now. With the help of the ‘new class’, society was subjugated and in this way the risky Bonapartist phase was brought to a close. Instead of the capitalist mode of production and a potentially bourgeois society with a corresponding constitutional state, in 1927/1928 the state was unleashed. In the name of ‘workers’ and peasants’ power’, a terror-based regime was established, which sought to murder its way to a ‘classless’ society. In so doing, it in no way spared the ‘new class’, and at times in fact devastated this class even more than it did the others. Under the slogan ‘socialism in one country’, a system of domination was elaborated that waged an undeclared war in the attempt to carve out a society that would be egalitarian and incapable of any resistance. Once the profiteers of the NEP and the peasantry had been enslaved, it was the turn of the Revolutionary Guard and ultimately of anyone who

5 Kommunalka: A form of dwelling common in overpopulated Russian cities from the nineteenth century onwards, in which several families shared one flat.

10

BEYOND SOCIAL DEMOCRATS AND BOLSHEVIKS

199

was unable to hide individuality, including Mrs. Molotova (Polina Zhemchuzhina), the wife of one of the regime’s worst mass-murderers, Stalin’s foreign minister and crony, Vyacheslav Molotov. All social relationships, to the degree that they were based on trust, were deliberately destroyed. A society characterised by equality arose, but an equality in freedom’s lack, in fear, in the absence of attachments—ultimately a non-society that lacked all the hallmarks of a civil society. The young, ‘untainted’ by life, were to supply the ‘new human beings’, available for everything; there was no pity for the ‘old’. Here, the authoritarian state reigned—it had been completely unleashed. The Stalinist leadership tried to outwit the functioning of modern society, its laws—by seeming to override them. The revolution had left its riverbed; in future, water was to flow uphill. It was an attempt to play God. What took place was not the emancipation from class existence and class rule—certainly not as Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, and to some extent also Lenin had envisaged it. Here society was replaced by a higher and a lower, or perhaps even better, by an inside and outside, between which the individual could be arbitrarily thrown back and forth: today a guard, tomorrow a slave; today a slave, tomorrow a general; yesterday chief of the secret police, tomorrow a victim of torture. The roles were interchangeable and they were interchanged. Classlessness not as a result of major class conflicts, but as a result of the workings of an omnipresent police state, which, as the main instrument of the ruling class—meaning not the ‘working class’ that is always touted, but the actual ruling class: the new class of the party and state bureaucracy—‘created’ an ostensibly socialist society. This society had to be ‘created’ because under the prevailing conditions a socialist society was unable to develop. Under the given conditions only a capitalist mode of production would have been able to develop. But it was precisely this mode of production with all its social and political consequences for society that had to be stopped—by creating a state economy and by suppressing every form of constitutionality and of civil society. The state created an economic foundation for itself. It was even worse than Luxemburg had feared in 1918: Public control is indispensably necessary. Otherwise the exchange of experiences remains only with the closed circle of the officials of the new regime. […] Socialism in life demands a complete spiritual transformation in the

200

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

masses degraded by centuries of bourgeois class rule. Social instincts in place of egotistical ones, mass initiative in place of inertia, idealism which conquers all suffering, etc., etc. No one knows this better, describes it more penetratingly; repeats it more stubbornly than Lenin. But he is completely mistaken in the means he employs. Decree, dictatorial force of the factory overseer, draconic penalties, rule by terror – all these things are but palliatives. The only way to a rebirth is the school of public life itself, the most unlimited, the broadest democracy and public opinion. It is rule by terror which demoralizes. When all this is eliminated, what really remains? In place of the representative bodies created by general, popular elections, Lenin and Trotsky have laid down the soviets as the only true representation of the labouring masses. But with the repression of political life in the land as a whole, life in the soviets must also become more and more crippled. Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Among them, in reality only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working class is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously – at bottom, then, a clique affair – a dictatorship, to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat, however, but only the dictatorship of a handful of politicians, that is a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense, in the sense of the rule of the Jacobins […]. Yes, we can go even further: such conditions must inevitably cause a brutalization of public life: attempted assassinations, shooting of hostages, etc.’ (Luxemburg 2004a, 306f.)

Bibliography Arendt, Hannah. 1970. On Violence. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World. Balabanoff, Angelica. 2018. Lenin oder: Der Zweck heiligt die Mittel. Erinnerungen, 3rd corrected ed. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Deutscher, Isaac. 1970. The Prophet Armed. Trotsky: 1879–1921. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Djilas, Milovan. 1957. The New Class. An Analysis of the Communist System. London: Atlantic. Eberlein, Hugo. 2005. Erinnerungen an Rosa Luxemburg bei Kriegsausbruch. Utopie Kreativ 147: 355–362.

10

BEYOND SOCIAL DEMOCRATS AND BOLSHEVIKS

201

Engels, Frederick. 1977. Democratic Pan-Slavism (1849). In MECW , vol. 8, 362–378. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Engels, Frederick. 1978. The Peasant War in Germany (1850). In MECW , vol. 10, 397–482. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Engels, Frederick. 1990. Introduction to Karl Marx’s “The Class Struggle in France, 1848–1850” (1895). In Collected Works, vol. 27, 506–524. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Kossok, Manfred. 2016. 1917 - eine periphere Revolution? In Sozialismus an der Peripherie, ed. Jörn Schütrumpf, 39–48. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Lange, Paul. 2017. Rosa Luxemburg und die Bolschewisten (1921). In Diktatur statt Sozialismus. Die russische Revolution und die deutsche Linke 1917/18, ed. Jörn Schütrumpf, 46–47. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Lenin, Vladimir I. 1973. Notes of a Publicist (1922). In Collected Works, vol. 33, 204–211. Moscow: Progress Publishers. Levi, Paul. 1922. Ihre Gefängnisse. Unser Weg. Halbmonatszeitschrift für sozialistische Politik 4: XXX–XXX. Levi, Paul. 1990. Einleitung zu »Die Russische Revolution. Eine kritische Würdigung. Aus dem Nachlass von Rosa Luxemburg«. In Rosa Luxemburg und die Freiheit der Andersdenkenden. Extraausgabe des unvollendeten Manuskripts „Zur russischen Revolution“ und anderer Quellen zur Polemik mit Lenin. Zusammengestellt und eingeleitet von Annelies Laschitza, ed. Institut für Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung, 177–231. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Levi, Paul. 2016. Wiederkunft. In Gesammelte Schriften, Reden und Briefe / Gesammelte Schriften, Reden und Briefe Band II/2: Ohne einen Tropfen Lakaienblut. Sozialdemokratie, Sozialistische Politik und Wirtschaft, ed. Jörn Schütrumpf, 1155–1158. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2004a. The Russian Revolution (1918). In The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, ed. Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, 281–310. New York: Monthly Review Press. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2004b. The Beginning (1918). In The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, ed. Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, 343–345. New York: Monthly Review Press. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2015a. Taktik der Revolution (1906). In Arbeiterrevolution 1905/06. Polnische Texte. Herausgegeben von Holger Politt, 204–209. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2015b. Lehren aus den drei Dumas (1908). In Arbeiterrevolution 1905/06. Polnische Texte. Herausgegeben von Holger Politt, 245–266. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Mao Tse-tung. 1965. Problems of War and Strategy (November 6, 1938). In Selected Works. Volume II , 219–236. Peking: Foreign Language Press. Marx, Karl. 1978. The Class Struggles in France (1850). In MECW , vol. 10, 45–145. London: Lawrence & Wishart.

202

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Schütrumpf, Jörn. 2018. Zwischen Liebe und Zorn: Rosa Luxemburg. In Rosa Luxemburg oder: Der Preis der Freiheit, Dritte, überarbeitete und ergänzte Auflage, 11–100. Berlin: Karl Dietz.

CHAPTER 11

The November Revolution: A New Beginning Violently Interrupted

The essence of socialist society consists in the fact that the great laboring mass ceases to be a dominated mass, but rather, makes the entire political and economic life its own life and gives that life a conscious, free, and autonomous direction. Luxemburg (2004a, 350)

Socialism as the Order of the Day Between his release from prison on 23 October 1918 and the arrival of revolution on 9 November, Karl Liebknecht re-established lost contacts, hurrying from one conspiratorial gathering to the next. Luxemburg on the other hand—a figure less in the public eye—remained in custody until 10 o’clock at night on 8 November. All the way into September 1918, the majority of Germans, including of German workers, supported the military dictators Hindenburg and Ludendorff. After Soviet Russia was forced to accept the ‘robber’s peace’ (Raubfrieden) of Brest-Litovsk on 3 March 1918, Leon Trotsky even anticipated a complete occupation of the new state by German forces—an occupation which he believed would be favourable to one by the Japanese (and later, to one by the British and French) based on the argument that Germany was far riper for revolution than Japan. Responding in the September edition of the illegal Spartacus Letters, Luxemburg wrote: © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 M. Brie and J. Schütrumpf, Rosa Luxemburg, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67486-1_11

203

204

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

‘Trotsky’s reasoning is fundamentally flawed insofar as the prospects and possibilities of a revolution in Germany are spoiled precisely by every reinforcement and victory of German militarism’ (Luxemburg 1974a, 389). Under these conditions, preparing for revolution appeared childish and remained far from the minds of most people to begin with. At the end of June, Germany’s leadership rejected the Triple Entente’s offer for a negotiated peace. (Had the offer been accepted, the course of the twentieth century would have been much different.) Two months later, in August and September 1918, it became obvious that Germany had lost the war. Austria’s armies collapsed. The Western Allies, now with the support of the USA, began a major offensive on the so-called Hindenburg Line, which did not held. In response, Erich Ludendorff urged the Kaiser to institute a parliamentary system and involve social democracy in the government1 with the goal of foisting responsibility for the pending defeat onto this parliamentary government—a strategic gambit that serves as testimony to his ruling experience, for it succeeded completely. This decision was officially justified as follows: without a parliamentary government, a ceasefire would not be achieved. The Reichstag was notified about the unimaginable—the capitulation of Germany (Haffner 1969: 39). It was the consensus of the half-hearted reforms controlled from above that bound together the elites of the German Empire, including the leadership of the SPD, in this hour of self-inflicted political-military defeat. And Luxemburg wrote from prison: ‘Now, for the first time in history, there is a party that calls itself Social Democratic, that wants to save the day from the looming catastrophe facing the existing class rule, that wants to take the wind out of the sails of the approaching people’s storm with pseudoreforms and pseudo renewal, to keep the masses in check’ (Luxemburg 1974b, 394).

1 Defeat forced the military dictators Hindenburg and Ludendorff to resign and the Kaiser to transfer power to a parliamentary coalition government. On 4 October 1918, the cabinet of Max von Baden was formed with the SPD serving as the majority party. The Social Democrat Gustav Bauer took over the Imperial Ministry of Labour, and his party colleague Philipp Scheidemann became a minister without portfolio. The collapse of this government on 9 November 1918 brought about the end of feudal supremacy in Germany, thereby ending the class compromise of 1871 between feudal elites and haute bourgeois circles. This compromise had enabled both sides to exert influence on political decisions—albeit in different degrees.

11

THE NOVEMBER REVOLUTION: A NEW BEGINNING …

205

Yet the storm could not be completely stopped. For far too long, the Kaiser was detained, the ‘pseudo-reforms’ not expanded, the war not ended. Triggering the revolution was an order given to the navy to begin a major assault on the twice as strong British Navy. An uprising broke out in Kiel. The sailors saw themselves as on the side of the government and felt betrayed. From Kiel, the uprising spread rapidly throughout the empire. Then on 6 November, Friedrich Ebert demanded the resignation of the Kaiser. In the memoirs of the Reichskanzler at the time Max von Baden, the following words are attributed to him: ‘If the Kaiser does not abdicate the social revolution is inevitable. I do not want it— in fact, I hate it like sin’ (cited in Baden 2011, 599f.). On the morning of 9 November, the workers of Berlin marched into the city centre, and the troops stationed in Berlin fraternised with them. The revolution had become fact. Scheidemann declared on behalf of the SPD—against the stated will of Ebert, who wanted to preserve the monarchy—a republic. Before the Berlin Palace shortly thereafter, Karl Liebknecht proclaimed a socialist republic. Once again, Luxemburg counted on the ‘proletarian masses’. The SPD leadership, having for four years supported the slaughtering of millions of workers on the battlefields of World War I, had been rewarded for their loyalty on 3 October 1918, when they entered government. They felt then as though they had finally reached their goal of a sharing of power between the ‘old society’ and the proletarian ‘counter-society’. This is why when in November 1918 a revolutionary movement of soldiers did away with this sharing of power, they entered into an agreement with the Reichswehr, thus preserving militarism on behalf of the German elites. On 7 November, Rosa Luxemburg finally received word of her freedom. Visibly aged, the 47-year old first joined the revolution on 8 November 1918, having had nothing to do with the revolutionary upheaval afoot in Germany since 3 November. On the morning of 9 November, she managed to give a brief speech in the Breslau town square, yet a subsequent speech which was supposed to be held before a crowd of 6000 in Breslau’s Centennial Hall was blocked by the local branch of the SPD. As this was happening, a republic was being declared in Berlin, and the commander-in-chief—the Kaiser—was transforming into German history’s foremost deserter-in-chief. Ceasefire conditions with the Entente were drawing to a close. When Luxemburg herself finally arrived in Berlin on 10 November, she took over the editorship of the Rote Fahne, the

206

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

newspaper of the Spartacus League. Just like earlier, her leadership was to be based on winning over the masses for a revolutionary course. No one had been prepared for such a dramatic collapse of Prussian absolutism. However, one force immediately proved to be able and motivated to act: the leadership of the SPD, which did so while paying lip service to socialism all the while. During lunchtime on 9 November, SPD co-chair Philipp Scheidemann entered the Berlin Palace through a window which had been broken in the revolution and declared Germany a republic, thereby edging out his fellow co-chair and competitor Friedrich Ebert. However, as soon as Ebert recognised the opportunity presented to him—against his will—he changed his mind and seized the initiative. Although Ebert himself had claimed to ‘hate the revolution like sin’,2 he now put himself at its forefront, outmanoeuvring Scheidemann in a display of political near-brilliance. So it was that Ebert became president in 1919 of a republic that others had fought and won against his will. During the war, the SPD leadership had entered into a collaboration with the state apparatus, working with the police, the judiciary and the military. Party leaders found this collaboration to be so ‘fruitful’ that they completely jettisoned the old social democratic demand for fundamentally restructuring the state, a demand which stemmed from Marx himself. The destruction of Prussian militarism having already been silently and covertly prevented, this constituted the second abandonment of a central project of anti-absolutist revolution.3 Neither revolution nor republic had found their way onto the agenda of the SPD leadership—instead, they existed solely in the catalogue of demands of Rosa Luxemburg and her friends. As such, it was no surprise that from day one of the revolution, the party did everything it could to limit the result of the revolution to a parliamentary republic, to strangle the idea of council republic and above all to preserve as much of the old regime as possible. 2 ‘If the Kaiser does not abdicate, the social revolution is unavoidable. But I do not want it, indeed I hate it like sin’ (quoted in Baden 2011, 567). 3 After this apparatus had been purged from any Social Democratic remnants, the Nazis were able to seamlessly take it over in 1933. Although the military as a state within a state had been massively reduced, it was made incredibly agile by the re-introduction of the system of military recruitment used by Gerhard von Scharnhorst against Napoleon. This system enabled the Nazis to pursue rapid armament from 1935: every member of the Reichswehr had already been trained for the next-highest rank, and a large reserve army had been created.

11

THE NOVEMBER REVOLUTION: A NEW BEGINNING …

207

In 1918, knowledge of the mechanisms set in motion during revolutions had not yet been forgotten among leading social democrats, whose education had been thoroughly Marxist—Friedrich Ebert was not the only one who had heard Luxemburg lecture at the party school. The SPD leadership was well aware that if any political revolution were deepened into a social one, it would eventually sweep them away too sooner or later. Soviet Russia was a case study of this: for the SPD leadership, the radicality of the Russian Revolution in progress since 1917 only underscored the necessary of an anti-revolutionary politics that was both consequent and flexible. It is often said that politicians are resistant to counselling, yet after Alexander Kerensky’s downfall in 1917, rarely have they learned so much in such a short period of time from the failure of one of their own. Due to both years-long systematic persecution by the authorities and well as their own lack of organisation, the Spartacus League was never more than a propaganda troupe involved in the Berlin uprising—they were not able to achieve anything more. In contrast, the USPD leadership functioned as something of the revolution’s ‘natural hegemon’, yet not once did it attempt to actually struggle for hegemony in the revolution. This lay in the hands of the SPD leadership from the start, where it remained until bourgeois Germany had adjusted to the new situation. Between 1918 and 1920/1921, the SPD leadership fulfilled the same function as that of Louis Napoleon following the French Revolution, or Otto von Bismarck in Prussia from 1862 onwards: while appearing to hover above hostile social groups, its own politics stabilised the conditions of bourgeois capitalism until the supporters of these conditions had grown into their ‘rightful’ roles as rulers—an example of what is commonly referred to as Bonapartism. That being said, in their own times, Louis Napoleon and Bismarck represented a Bonapartism that was executed by the members of a degenerating caste of rulers. In contrast, when Friedrich Ebert and Gustav Noske rushed to the aid of the rudderless German bourgeoisie in 1918, they did so as leaders of a party born out of the opposing social forces to this bourgeoisie—effectively enacting a ‘modernised’ variant of Bonapartism. From 1923, the SPD was no longer needed in the government, as the capital-based bourgeoisie was now able to administer its own affair. Almost all Rosa Luxemburg could do in 1918 was warn of the revolution taking this turn, which she did from its very beginning. Yet aside from several gatherings at which she spoke, she was hardly able to exert any influence on the revolution. Along with Karl Liebknecht, she was not

208

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

even granted admission to the First German Congress of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils (16–21 December 1918), which opted for the election of a national assembly and rejected any form of a council system of rule. On top of this, Luxemburg left prison not only in a severely weakened state, but also with a severe stomach illness. Nonetheless, she poured all of her remaining strength into her newspaper, Die Rote Fahne: ‘We spent the first weeks of the revolution, Rosa Luxemburg until the beginning of December, running from one hotel room to the next – without the possibility, which we often denied ourselves, of reading even one book. We were in the editorial office and then at the printing shop from mornings at 11 o’clock until evenings at midnight. Rosa Luxemburg was always the last to leave the printer’s, often so weak that she had to be transported by wagon’ (Levi 2017, 57). On 1 January 1919, the last day of the founding conference of the KPD, Luxemburg fell unconscious around midday and did not return after she had been carried back home. Only on 7 January was she able to publish another article again (see Luxemburg 1974c).4 The articles, programmatic writings and speeches Rosa Luxemburg produced during the 68-day span of Die Rote Fahne, the last days of her life, took up 140 pages, composed alongside an enormous amount of administrative and advisory work. The publisher of Die Rote Fahne received the smallest possible state allotment of paper: Appearing last Sunday were: Vorwärts, 16 pages long, the Deutsche Zeitung, 16 pages long, the Berliner Tageblatt, 20 pages long, the Vossische Zeitung, 24 pages long. On Wednesday of this week, the same paper appeared with the same number of pages, that is, with 76 in total. If here the entire rest of the Berlin press is added, including papers such as the Tägliche Rundschau, the Kreuzzeitung, the Morgenpost, the Volkszeitung, Germania, the Freisinnige Zeitung, Lokal-Anzeiger, Day, and whatever the rest are called, then the bourgeois press appeared on these days with a length of at least 300 pages. As opposed to this, the Rote Fahne was only…four pages long! More is not available (Unsigned 1918). Additionally, not many copies were printed, and in January 1919, the paper was also confiscated several times.

4 Recently, speculation has been spread via electronic media that Luxemburg suffered from the Spanish flu. In her condition, Luxemburg would not have survived the Spanish flu—in contrast to Paul Levi, who gave his presentation at the party conference with a fever.

11

THE NOVEMBER REVOLUTION: A NEW BEGINNING …

209

In her Handwritten Notes which she wrote while still imprisoned, Luxemburg attempted to gain clarity on the emerging situation and the tasks that would arise in the inevitable ‘storm period’ (Luxemburg 2017a, 1036) of a revolution: Now comes the time of calculations and reckonings. The prol[etariat] must above all reckon with itself, take stock, take a retrospective and a prospective view. Concern turns in three directions: 1. Towards the past to answer the question of why. 2. Towards the Russian Revolution to examine its lessons. 3. Towards the future to face the new situation created by the war and the prospects and tasks of soc[ialism] emerging from it. (Luxemburg 2017b, 1092). It was these three tasks that determined her agenda after her release from prison.

When on 18 November the Rote Fahne resumed publication following a compulsory break (it had been missing a printer and paper), Luxemburg developed the concept of the Spartacus League in an article titled ‘The Beginning’. Her central thesis: the abolition of the monarchy was nothing other than the tearing down of the facade for the rule of the imperialist bourgeoisie, the capitalist class rule. The actual task was yet to be completed: The path of the revolution follows clearly from its ends, its method fol-lows from its task. All power in the hands of the working masses, in the hands of the workers‘and soldiers‘councils, protection of the work of revolution against its lurking enemies—this is the guiding principle of all measures to be taken by the revolutionary government. Every step, every act by the government must, like a compass, point in this direction: Reelection and improvement of the local workers’ and soldiers’ councils; […] Regularly scheduled meetings of these representatives of the masses and the transfer of real political power from the small committee of the Executive Council into the broader basis of the workers’ and soldiers’ councils; […] Immediate convocation of the national council of workers and soldiers in order to establish the proletariat of all Germany as a class, as a compact political power, and to make them the bulwark and impetus of the revolution; Immediate organization […] of the agrarian proletariat and smallholders […]; Formation of a proletarian Red Guard for the permanent protection oft he revolu-tion […]; Suppression of the old organs of administration, justice, and the army of the absolutist militarist police state; Immediate confiscation of the dynastic property and possessions and of landed property […]; Immediate convocation of the World

210

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Labor Congress in Germany in order to emphasize clearly and distinctly the socialist and international character of the revolution, for only in the International, in the world revolution of the proletariat, is the future of the German revolution anchored. (Luxemburg 2004a, 343f.)

Here it is worth mentioning something else about Luxemburg’s attitude towards the workers’ and soldiers councils: as Luxemburg was released from custody, the formation of these councils was already well underway. Already in 1905–1906 during the First Russian Revolution, she had experienced workers’ councils while in Warsaw; in the Russian police state, where trade unions and parties were forbidden, these organisations emerged spontaneously as direct-democratic organs with deliberative and executive power. They seemed to confirm Luxemburg’s assumption of both the masses’ capacity and willingness for democracy, as well as of their creativity. The German councils of 1918 were clearly imported from Russia and developed in opposition to the four and a half years of the Burgfriedenspolitik, or party truce, of the SPD and the trade unions—a rejection of their political abstinence that nonetheless coincided with their presence ‘on the other side of the barricades’. Yet both the SPD and the trade unions were able to almost seamlessly adjust their bureaucracies from Burgfrieden to a policy to stop the revolution at the earliest possible crossroad. As Kurt Tucholsky commented, ‘What do you need principles for when you have an apparatus?’ Another factor working against the soldiers’ councils, which carried the revolution in its first days, was the fact that many soldiers were beginning to head home, which sapped the councils of their strength. The Spartacus League wanted to permanently establish the workers’ and soldiers’ councils as the central organ of power and saw the national assembly as a ‘detour’ that would strengthen the bourgeoisie and turn a potential socialist revolution into a simple bourgeois-democratic revolution. To do so, Luxemburg and her comrades were even willing to hazard a civil war: ‘The “civil war” that one from the revolution tries to proscribe with anxious concern, won’t let itself be proscribed. The civil war is just another name for class struggle, and the idea that it’s possible to implement socialism without class struggle and through majority resolutions in parliament is a laughable, petty-bourgeois illusion’ (Luxemburg 1974d, 408). But such positions were hopelessly in the minority, even in the

11

THE NOVEMBER REVOLUTION: A NEW BEGINNING …

211

workers’ and soldiers’ councils.5 For the workers and soldiers, the SPD together with the USPD was the symbol of the unity of the working class. They supported a politics of pursuing compromise and absolutely wanted to avoid a civil war. For this reason, national assembly elections were supported by the vast majority of the social democratic working class. Even in Berlin, where more workers were organised in the USPD than in the SPD, the latter received more support in the vote at the First German Congress of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils than did the USPD. And in the Berlin section of the USPD, a two-thirds majority voted for national assembly elections and against the immediate seizure of power by the workers’ and soldiers’ councils, something which Luxemburg had suggested (Luban 1997, 24). It is not clear whether Luxemburg saw councils as viable organs of governance in the long term. All that is certain is that following the rejection of council democracy at the First Council Congress, Luxemburg advocated for participation in the national assembly elections along with the other leaders of the Spartacus League. However, this turned out to be a minority position at the founding conference of the KPD and was voted down 62 to 23 (see Weber 1993, 135). This was the beginning of the road to Cavalry for the nascent party: until the Reichstag elections in June 1920, the KPD lacked parliamentary protection and lost thousands of supporters to state terror—Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were but some of the first victims. The later prime minister of Bavaria, Wilhelm Hoegner of the SPD, described this in 1945 as follows: ‘The Social Democrats Ebert and Noske were only able to suppress the Spartacist uprisings with the help of the imperial generals. Henceforth, a deep schism fractured the German working class. This schism was filled with blood, and it could no longer be filled in …’ (Ritter 1945, 22). The conflict within the German working class reached its apogee with the catastrophe politics of the leadership of USPD’s Berlin section under Georg Ledebour (for more on this cf. Ledebour 1919). On 5 January 1919, the USPD Berlin put out a call to Berlin’s workers to take to the streets, which it issued along with a majority of the ‘Revolutionary Stewarts’—supported by Karl Liebknecht and Wilhelm Pieck, who acted in the 5 Among the 489 delegates of the First General Congress of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils on 16 December 1918, 289 were from the SPD, 80 from the USPD and only 10 from the Spartacists and International Communists (Schmidt 1988, 106; Rürup 1994; Brandt 2009).

212

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

name of the KPD’s headquarters but without its knowledge. However, because these ‘revolutionary leaders’ could not agree on anything, they ended up leaving 200 thousand demonstrators to stand alone all day in the icy weather (see Schütrumpf 2018b). In the light of this occurrence, the historian Heinrich August Winkler commented that ‘The uprising of parts of the Berlin working class was leaderless from the start’ (Winkler 1985, 122). Nonetheless, fantasies of a ‘Spartacist Uprising’ continue to be propagated to this day. What those in power at the time actually understood ‘Spartacus’ to be was somewhat inadvertently illustrated by Robert Leinert, SPD president of the Prussian Constitutional Convention, in a statement he gave to the committee of enquiry into the uprisings of January 1919: ‘There were three representatives of the Spartacists, as they were still called back then, that is, of the Spartacus League, of the independents and of the majority socialists respectively’ (Schütrumpf 2018b: 8029). In other words, a Spartacist was anyone who did not follow Friedrich Ebert and Gustav Noske, including SPD members. Luxemburg had neither called for the demonstrations nor participated in any capacity herself. However, she did repeatedly appeal in the Rote Fahne to the self-appointed ‘revolutionary leaders’ to do justice to their responsibility towards the masses, a responsibility they had claimed for themselves. Although there was a fight for the editorial office of the Rote Fahne on the night of 7–8 January—why the paper could only appear as a one-page extra on January 8—Luxemburg refused to publish a call in its pages for another demonstration on 8 January 1919. Instead, she wrote an article in which she warned of putschism: ‘Getting rid of the Ebert-Scheidemann government does not mean storming the Reich Chancellery and chasing away the few people inside’ (Luxemburg 1974d, 522). However, this has not prevented one German historian—who has faced zero professional consequences for doing so—to spin Luxemburg’s statement into its opposite: ‘In her opinion, simply “storming the Reich Chancellery and chasing away the few people inside” did not go far enough’ (Scharrer 1983, 201). Rosa Luxemburg knew that every revolution encounters unavoidable blowback when the forces of the first onrush have been exhausted. In her analysis of the Russian Revolution of 1905, she was inclined to the view—articulated by Friedrich Engels—that this blowback would be more marginal to the extent that the political upheaval was pushed to become

11

THE NOVEMBER REVOLUTION: A NEW BEGINNING …

213

a social upheaval. Enough pressure should be applied to the counterrevolutionary side to force it to opt for a certain compromise over an uncertain triumph. By founding the Spartacus League on 11 November 1918, Luxemburg intended to push the revolution as far possible in the direction of socialism—in a manner of speaking, to show the forces of counterrevolution the instruments at the revolution’s disposal. Yet this remained mere theory, whereas the reality on the ground looked different: power relations with society stood opposed to any further revolutionary push. A working class that had followed a military dictator such as Erich Ludendorff only a few weeks prior was not about to be turned into a base for socialism overnight. Luxemburg was aware of the power relations in which she had to do politics. Thus, an abrupt transition to socialism struck her as illusory. Ultimately, the Spartacus League and the KPD under the leadership of Rosa Luxemburg (who was supported by Leo Jogiches), Franz Mehring and Karl Liebknecht really only played a significant role in the revolution in one respect: as a projection surface, a hallucinated surrogate for the Bolsheviks that all political camps to the right of Luxemburg invoked as a ‘common enemy’ against which to unite. At all costs, their goal was to prevent the revolution from developing into a social revolution, and any provocation of Berlin’s working class served as a pretext for them to do so. No one has expressed more openly that the January uprisings were staged by the SPD leadership than the SPD Prussian minister of the interior (and from 4 January 1919, president of the Berlin Police) Eugen Ernst. As Ernst stated in an interview with the Milan-based socialist newspaper Avanti on 23 January 1919, ‘The success of the Spartacus people was precluded from the outset, as our preparations forced them to strike at the earliest possibility. They showed their cards sooner than they wanted, which is why we were in a position to oppose them’ (Ernst 1919).

Programmatic Renewal and the Founding of the KPD In addition to her daily work for the Rote Fahne and the enormous number of meetings in the hectic weeks of November and December 1918, Rosa Luxemburg also wrote the draft of the programme of the

214

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Spartacus League. This became the basis for the programme of the KPD, which was founded at the end of 1918 and beginning of 1919. Under the title What Does the Spartacus League Want , this document expresses the quintessence of her programmatic-strategic approach during this period. Appearing on 14 December in the Rote Fahne, it is her most important political legacy. Like in so many of her prior writings, its linguistic brilliance, analytic precision, radicalness of thought and bright horizon of hope form a unity. Luxemburgs programme draft is clearly structured. Composing its first section is an interpretation of the strategic situation, of the age as a space of action. The second section summarises Luxemburg’s ideas on socialism. The third section formulates the most important goals pursued by the Spartacus League, making clear the distinction to the SPD and also to the USPD as well as to the Bolsheviks. The fourth and fifth sections encompass a profession of internationalism and express the self-image of the Spartacus League.

The Alternatives of the Age: Socialism or Barbarism It was the mutual understanding of many socialists in the fall of 1918 that the end of the four-year world war would also mean the end of capitalism in Europe. The destruction appeared so extensive, the delegitimisation of ruling economic and political circles so complete, the rage and the will for change among the people so pent up, that nothing other than a total break appeared possible. Luxemburg emphasised in the programme of the Spartacus League the thesis that capitalism must necessarily end in barbarism. Capitalism was for her not first and foremost an economic problem, not just a system of rule that produces exploitation and war. Most of all, it was a system that destroys civilisation and that cannot be reconciled with the cultural development of humanity. In just two pages, in ten paragraphs, every single sentence full of meaning, she summarised her interpretation. The alternatives were summed up with all force of language: The World War confronts society with the choice: either continuation of capitalism, new wars, and imminent decline into chaos and anarchy, or aboli-tion of capitalist exploitation. With the conclusion of world war, the class rule of the bourgeoisie has forfeited its right to existence. It is no

11

THE NOVEMBER REVOLUTION: A NEW BEGINNING …

215

longer capable of leading society out of the terrible economic collapse which the imperialist orgy has left in its wake. […] In this hour, socialism is the only salvation for humanity. The words of the Communist Manifesto flare like a fiery menetekel above the crumbling bas-tions of capitalist society: Socialism or barbarism! (Luxemburg 2004b, 349f.)

Luxemburg’s critique of capitalism is distinguished by its focus on civilisation, a benchmark entailing a dignified and rich life for all, peace, security and the preservation and solidary co-development of cultures in their diversity. Behind the Marxist formulations common at the time, a wide vision is visible that would later be taken up directly by Ernst Bloch.

Socialism as Free Self-Determination As the November Revolution broke out, Luxemburg believed that socialist revolution was the order of the day in Germany. The fog of the future which Marx wrote about in a letter to the socialist Niewenhuis (Marx 1992, 66) had dispersed. Socialism had become a question for the present. Luxemburg had already been confronted with this during the 1905 Russia Revolution. In her 1906 Commentary on the Programme of Social Democracy in the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania she developed positions that very precisely represent her basic conception of socialist society. According to her, the ‘main foundations’ of a society ordered according to socialism are clear: It suffices that we know they will be based on the socialised ownership of all means of production, and that instead of individual producers, society as a whole and its elected organs will direct production. Thus we can conclude that the future order will know neither lack nor idle-making abundance, neither crises nor uncertainty about what tomorrow will bring. With the elimination of the selling of labour power to private exploiters, the source of all contemporary social inequality will disappear. (Luxemburg 1972, 43)

Also in her economic writings and lectures, Luxemburg repeatedly highlighted socialism’s character as an order based on common ownership and underlined its links with pre-capitalist economic forms (cf. Luxemburg 2017c, 213). For her, the exchange of goods and money is only needed when production is not socially organised (Luxemburg 2017d, 494).

216

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

In the second section of the programme of the Spartacus League, Luxemburg developed a concept of socialism as radically based on one thing: the independence of humans who have been freed from capitalist wage dependency. Once again, this basic idea was elaborated in ten paragraphs with new accents being set throughout. Not only the takeover of political power, but also the shaping of new socialist relations must be ‘the work of the working class itself’ (Luxemburg 2004b, 351). Taking up ideas from an article she had published shortly prior, The Socialisation of Society, Luxemburg wrote: From dead machines assigned their place in production by capital, the proletarian masses must learn to transform themselves into the free and independent directors of this process. They have to acquire the feeling of responsibility proper to active members of the collectivity which alone possesses ownership of all social wealth. They have to develop industriousness without the capitalist whip, the highest productivity without slavedrivers, discipline without the yoke, order without authority. The highest idealism in the interest of the collectivity, the strictest self-discipline, the truest public spirit of the masses are the moral foundations of socialist socie-ty, just as stupidity, egotism, and corruption are the moral foundations of capitalist society. (Luxemburg 2004b, 351)

Luxemburg foregrounded neither a hierarchically organised mass production, nor a perfect bureaucracy, nor the polished democratic rules of a comprehensive council system. For her, planing and discipline, and the will to work and produce, absolutely have a place in a socialist society. But they are just the necessary conditions for something else—for the transformation of the social whole into a living coherence of lively humans who control their own affairs though open discussion and democratic decision-making. The how remains open. It should be understood more as an appeal: ‘Only through constant, vital, reciprocal contact between the masses of the people and their organs, the workers’ and soldiers’ councils, can the activity of the people fill the state with a socialist spirit’ (Luxemburg 2004b, 351). Here emerges Luxemburg’s enduring definition of socialism as a society rich with freedom—a society not free from hard and necessary work, not free from self-discipline and control, also not free from the pains of democracy and from threats to this freedom, but a society that is shapable as a space of freedom shared together. Socialism as a form of being suitable for humans, because it is the most lively, the freest form of being—this is a horizon that could give socialism a future!

11

THE NOVEMBER REVOLUTION: A NEW BEGINNING …

217

The Next Tasks in the Revolution The third section of the programme of the Spartacus League begins with a longer introduction before going on to list concrete demands. First comes a clear distancing not from violence, but from terror. Luxemburg had already voiced highly critical objections of the state-organised terror of the Bolsheviks. In the identification of the Spartacus League with the politics of the Bolsheviks, she saw a grave threat to the former’s effectiveness. Terror was for her neither the use of violence in armed conflict nor the prosecution of those who actively opposed revolutionary legality. She understood terror as the murder or persecution of the defenceless as a means of political deterrence. Persecution of innocents and imprisonment and execution of those holding divergent views were tactics she strictly rejected. While she considered assassinations on individual leadership figures of an authoritarian regime such as Tsarism, or in World War I against the representatives of the Habsburg Empire, thoroughly legitimate, she believed it was often not an advantageous means of rebellion (Luxemburg 1978, 276f.; 2014, 362; 2017e, 1064). For Luxemburg, the Bolshevik dictatorship was bourgeois, regardless of the goals it was pursuing, precisely because it was a ‘dictatorship of a handful of persons’ (Luxemburg 2004c, 307). In her eyes, the terror of the Bolsheviks was also bourgeois. Less important to Luxemburg were more or less good intentions than practical means of politics: During the bourgeois revolutions, bloodshed, terror, and political murder were an indispensable weapon in the hand of the rising classes. The proletarian revolution requires no terror for its aims; it hates and despises killing. It does not need these weapons because it does not combat individuals but institutions, because it does not enter the arena with naive illusions whose disappointment it would seek to revenge. It is not the desperate attempt of a minority to mold the world forcibly according to its ideal, but the action of the great massive millions of the people, destined to fulfill a historic mission and to transform historical necessity into reality. (Luxemburg 2004b, 352)

Luxemburg was certainly no ‘prophet of pacifism’, but she did believe that revolutionary violence should only be employed in accordance with the stated will of an overwhelming, working-class majority. At the same time, a condition of this position was that the employment of violence be

218

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

minimised, and that means of terror not be taken up in order to compensate for objective weaknesses through brutality: yes to violence in public battles, no to the cowardly butchering of the defenceless. Only after this introductory distancing from organised terror did Luxemburg’s programmatic text turn towards its emphasis on the task of breaking all resistance ‘with an iron fist and ruthless energy’ (Luxemburg 2004b, 352f.). This was a continuation of the line that Luxemburg brought to the fore during the first Russian Revolution. Her orientation towards revolutionary violence, towards civil war as a form of class struggle in which the old class would be oppressed and expropriated as a class, was in her eyes incompatible with terror against people. Politics should be uncompromising and humane when dealing with people. The emergency programme of a socialist government of workers’ and soldiers’ councils that Luxemburg developed in December 1918 began with the disarmament of the counterrevolution and the construction of workers’ militias as well as with the replacement of all civil servants of the German empire with council representatives. Additionally, a revolutionary tribunal should be set up to try ‘the Hohenzollerrns, Ludendorff, Hindenburg, Tirpitz, and their accomplices, together with all the conspirators of counterrevolution’ (Luxemburg 2004b, 354). Second, the power of the workers’ and soldiers’ councils should be made permanent. Luxemburg incorporated suggestions for a radical democratisation oriented on the rules of the Paris Commune with its imperative mandate and the constant possibility to recall representatives. The maximum daily working time should be reduced to six hours. In a third step, the next economic demands were outlined. They ranged from the confiscation of all dynastic inheritances and incomes to the cancellation of public debts, from a land reform involving the expropriation of all major and midsized agricultural operations to the ownership transfer of all large-scale enterprise to the republic. Behind all this lay the goal of workers themselves taking over the management of production.

The Self-Understanding of the Spartacus League In the programme of the Spartacus League, Luxemburg formulated her understanding of party, which she modelled closely on the Communist Manifesto from Marx and Engels: ‘The Spartacus League is not a party that wants to rise to power over the mass of workers or through them. The Spartacus League is only the most conscious, purposeful part of

11

THE NOVEMBER REVOLUTION: A NEW BEGINNING …

219

the proletariat, which points the entire broad mass of the working class toward its historical tasks at every step, which represents in each particular stage of the Revolution the ultimate socialist goal, and in all national questions the interests of the proletarian world revolution’ (Luxemburg 2004b, 356). Shortly thereafter, she spoke of the Spartacus League’s need to be the ‘infallible compass’, the ‘wedge, pointing and pushing to be the socialist, proletarian yeast of the revolution’ (Luxemburg 1918a). The debate about the self-image of the political force that Luxemburg and her comrades were attempting to form in the revolution flared up once again—at the founding conference of the KPD. The split with the USPD was complete. Luxemburg now assented as well. On the question of what to name the new party, her proposal Socialist Workers’ Party was defeated. There was fundamental consensus around the need to break with the social democratic view of the party form as what Hugo Eberlein deemed a ‘voting association’ and to instead become a ‘revolutionary fighting organisation’. The central tactical question was whether the KPD should take part in the elections for the national assembly. The majority of the delegates rejected this idea. In her speech on the question of participating in the elections, Luxemburg focused on the ‘education’ of the masses: ‘I tell you that precisely thanks to the immaturity of the masses […], the counterrevolution has managed to erect the National Assembly as a bulwark against us. And now our road leads straight through the middle of this bulwark’ (Luxemburg 1918b). Yet this bulwark proved to be very stubborn: while the councils tended towards the SPD’s line at the end of 1918, social democratic forces had already lost their majority in the Reichstag by 1920. Luxemburg assumed politics would tend in a completely different direction. As she emphasised, only once an overwhelming majority of the population would support a socialist upheaval would it be possible to take power, which would happen not primarily by means of the bayonet but above all by those of democracy. The experiences of the revolutions of 1917 and 1918 led Luxemburg beyond the opposition between revolution and reform. Given the weakness of the left, she found herself searching in December 1918 for alternative means of socialisation and adopted the idea of the council. Even under the conditions of the largely failed revolution, she was still not willing to abandon this new form of self-organisation and selfgovernment, which she hoped could develop outside the old alliances of social democracy and trade unions: ‘Today, we have to concentrate on

220

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

the system of workers’ councils; the organizations should not be locked together using a combination of the old form, union and party, but should rather be put on a whole new footing. Works councils, workers’ councils, and others rising up, a whole new structure, which has nothing in common with the old, handed down tradition’ (Luxemburg 1918c). In the place of a general offensive, Luxemburg suggested a strategy focused on creating the elements of a new society from within the old: We […] have to present the question of seizing power as the question: what does each workers’ and soldiers council in the whole of Germany do? What can and should each council do? (‘Bravo!’) That is where power lies, we have to hollow out the bourgeois state from below, by no longer separating but rather uniting public power, the passing of laws and the administration, in the hands of the workers’ and soldiers’ councils. (Luxemburg 1918d)

By doing this, the question of reform and revolution could be posed differently: socialist upheaval would no longer be thought of exclusively as the ‘day of reckoning’ but rather as a process that—through changing power relations and structures of dominance and ownership, through institutional innovations and through reforms that point beyond capitalism—can begin in the here and now.

The January Uprising in Berlin and Government Terror The strategy of the Spartacists was not aimed at an immediate seizure of power from a minority position. Chief of Staff General Groener later remarked that ‘Herr Liebknecht and comrades celebrated Christmas and conducted themselves perfectly peacefully during the days in which the least number of troops were present’ (cited in Ettinger 1990, 290f.). Indeed, the Spartacists were devoting their efforts to enlightening workers and forming an independent party. Yet the imperial government sought a swift clarification of power relations. As Groener would write: ‘At the start of the year 1919, we were confident in our ability to take hold of Berlin and cleanse it. All measures that followed occurred in closest accordance with the Heeresleitung, but the leadership and the responsibility of the government and the people was carried by [Gustav] Noske, shortly thereafter named Defense Minister, who, following in the footsteps of

11

THE NOVEMBER REVOLUTION: A NEW BEGINNING …

221

Ebert, entered into a firm alliance with the officers’ (cited in Laschitza 2002, 617). The uprising in January 1919 was not set in motion by a decision of the KPD leadership.6 The trigger was the dismissal of the Berlin police chief Emil Eichhorn by the Prussian Prime Minister Paul Hirsch. This was viewed as a provocation. The large mass demonstrations of Berlin workers that took place on 5 January, and the assumption that an uprising would receive broad military backing caused events to take on a dynamic of their own. While Liebknecht supported the uprising, Leo Jogiches advocated distance. Luxemburg decided to support the uprising as long as she saw in it the proclaimed will of the majority of the Berlin workers (see Winkler 1993, 57). In a study based upon an extensive interpretation of the historical sources, Ottokar Luban concludes that ‘[i]n spite of her illusory overestimation of the proletarian masses’ readiness to engage in revolutionary action and the completely disproportionately pointed attacks on other socialist leaders who were motivated by much different realities, the Spartacus leader [Luxemburg] never became “Bloody Rosa”, never transformed into a putschistic let alone a terroristic politician. Rather, Rosa Luxemburg completely stood by her democratic principles—which were based on the council system, not parliamentary democracy—during the January Uprising of 1919’ (Luban 2001, 35; see also with regard to the positions both of Luxemburg, Liebknecht and Jogiches Laschitza 2010; Tych 2010). It was particularly tragic that Luxemburg—along with the entire KPD leadership and the revolutionary elite of Berlin—mistook the mass movement of Berlin workers, united from below around the demands that the SPD, USPD and the KPD unify and that new workers’ council elections be held, as mere manipulation by the USPD ‘centrists’ (Luban 2001, 19f.). The uprising in Berlin was crushed on 12 January 1919. It was a total defeat that resulted in the demobilisation of workers and the loss of the power and legitimacy of the revolutionary elite, the actual driving force behind the revolutionary change of power in Berlin on 9 November 1918. A wave of terror set in. The defenceless were shot, prisoners murdered (cf. Jones 2016). KPD leaders were specifically targeted in the hunt.

6 On the legend of the Spartacus League, cf. Eberhard Kolb (1962, 223ff.) and most recently: Jörn Sch¨utrumpf (2018a, 58–71; b).

222

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

In January 1919, I attended a KPD [German Communist Party] meeting where Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were speaking. I gathered the impression that they were the intellectual leaders of the revolution, and I decided to have them killed. Following my orders, they were captured. One has to decide to break the rule of law […]. This decision to have them both killed did not come easy to me […]. I do maintain that this decision is morally and theologically legitimate. Captain Waldemar Pabst (1962)

Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were apprehended on 15 January by the so-called people’s defence [Bürgerwehr] in Berlin-Wilmersdorf, transported to the Eden Hotel and murdered on the orders of Captain Waldemar Pabst, who had consulted with Noske beforehand. As one of the culprits later confessed: ‘The events on that evening unfolded like in a state of intoxication. We’d been killing each other for four years, one more made no difference’ (cited in Hannover and Hannover-Drück 1979, 139). On 10 March 1919 a criminal patrol officer murdered Leo Jogiches in custody, who had been attempting to clarify the circumstances surrounding the murders of Luxemburg and Liebknecht. In despair, Paul Levi began his eulogy for Luxemburg and Liebknecht on 2 February 1919 with the following words: ‘It is as if the earth had not had its fill of blood. For four years she has drunk blood, blood upon blood’ (Levi 1919, 3). As Luxemburg was apprehended, she was carrying a copy of Goethe’s Faust. She hoped that maybe she would just be imprisoned once again. And yet, she was prepared to ‘die at her post’. She was only 47 years old. Her thirty-year search for a revolutionary Realpolitik that could put an end to capitalism, colonialism, racism and war would remain unfulfilled.7 The Spartacus League that had worked towards the revolution for many years had at most a marginal influence on it. The group only joined the action when it was already over: the emperor had fled, the war had ended, the republic had been declared, the 8-hour working day decided upon and the class-based electoral system in Prussia dismantled. The movement of soldiers disintegrated as rapidly as it had come into being, with husbands and sons just wanting to return home.

7 Heinrich Hannover, Elisabeth Hannover-Drück (1979) and Klaus Gietinger (2019) give an detailed account of the concrete circumstances of the political murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht.

11

THE NOVEMBER REVOLUTION: A NEW BEGINNING …

223

Bibliography Baden, Prinz Max von. 2011. Erinnerungen und Dokumente. Hamburg: SEVERUS Verlag. Brandt, Peter. 2009. Der historische Ort der deutschen Revolution von 1918/19. Globkult. Ernst, Eugen. 1919. Come fu provocata L’insurrezione di Berlino, in: Avanti, giornale del Partito socialista, Anno XXIII, N. 23, 23 Gennaio 1919; Avanti, giornale del Partito socialista, January 23. Ettinger, Elzbieta. ˙ 1990. Rosa Luxemburg. Ein Leben. Bonn: J.F.W. Dietz. Gietinger, Klaus. 2019. The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg. London and New York: Verso. Haffner, Sebastian. 1969. Die deutsche Revolution 1918/19. Bern: Scherz. Hannover, Heinrich, and Elisabeth Hannover-Drück (eds.). 1979. Der Mord an Rosa Luxemburg und Karl Liebknecht. Dokumentation eines politischen Verbrechens. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Jones, Mark. 2016. Founding Weimar. Violence and the German Revolution of 1918–1919. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kolb, Eberhard. 1962. Die Arbeiterräte in der deutschen Innenpolitik 1918–1919. Düsseldorf: Droste. Laschitza, Annelies. 2002. Im Lebensrausch, trotz alledem. Rosa Luxemburg. Eine Biographie. Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag. Laschitza, Annelies. 2010. Rosa Luxemburg und Karl Liebknecht in den Wochen der Revolution. In Rosa Luxemburg. Ökonomische und historisch-politische Aspekte ihres Werkes: Internationale Rosa-Luxemburg-Gesellschaft in Tokio, April 2007, und Berlin, Januar 2009, ed. Narihiko Ito, Annelies Laschitza, and Ottokar Luban, 113–129. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Ledebour, Georg, ed. 1919. Der Ledebour-Prozeß . Berlin: Freiheit. Levi, Paul. 1919. Karl Liebknecht und Rosa Luxemburg zum Gedächtnis. Rede bei der Trauerfeier am 2. Februar 1919 im Lehrer-Vereinshaus zu Berlin. Berlin: Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (Spartakusbund). Levi, Paul. 2017. Zur Klarstellung (1922). In Diktatur statt Sozialismus. Die russische Revolution und die deutsche Linke 1917/18, ed. Jörn Schütrumpf, 55–58. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luban, Ottokar. 1997. Rosa Luxemburg, Spartakus und die Massen. In Reform – Demokratie – Revolution. Zur Aktualität von Rosa Luxemburg. Supplement der Zeitschrift „Sozialismus“ 5/1997 , ed. Theodor Bergmann and Wolfgang Haible, 11–27. Hamburg: VSA. Luban, Ottokar. 2001. Die ratlose Rosa. Die KPD-Führung und der Berliner Januaraufstand - Legende und Wirklichkeit. Supplement Der Zeitschrift Sozialismus. Hamburg: VSA. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1918a. The Reich Conference of the Spartacus League. RosaLuxemburg-Stiftung.

224

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Luxemburg, Rosa. 1918b. Speech supporting KPD participation in the elections to the National Assembly. Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1918c. Speech against a Unitary Economic-political Organization for the Workers’ Movement. Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1918d. Our Program and the Political Situation. RosaLuxemburg-Stiftung. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1972. Was wollen wir? Kommentar zum Programm der Sozialdemokratie des Königreichs Polen und Litauens (1906). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 2, 37–89. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1974a. Die russische Tragödie. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, 385–392. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1974b. Der kleine Lafayette (1918). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, 393–396. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1974c. Was machen die Führer (1919). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, 518–520. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1974d. Versäumte Pflichten (1919). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, 521–524. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1978. Zur Frage des Terrorismus in Russland (1902). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1.2, 275–280. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2004a. The Beginning (1918). In The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, ed. Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, 343–345. New York: Monthly Review Press. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2004b. What Does the Spartacus League Want? In The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, ed. Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, 349–357. New York: Monthly Review Press. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2004c. The Russian Revolution (1918). In The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, ed. Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, 281–310. New York: Monthly Review Press. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2014. Ein politisches Attentat (1902). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 6, 361–363. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2017a. Schicksalsstunde der Partei (1917). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 7.2, 1031–1039. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2017b. Handschriftliche Fragmente zur Geschichte der Internationalen, der deutschen Sozialdemokratie, zu Krieg, Revolution und Nachkriegsperspektiven (1918). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 7.2, 1088–1114. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2017c. Handschriftliche Fragmente über Widersprüche und Tendenzen des Kapitalismus. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 7.1, 207–236. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Luxemburg, Rosa. 2017d. Mitschriften der Parteischülerin Rosi Wolfstein zu den Vorlesungen Rosa Luxemburgs 1912/13. In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 7.1, 311–564. Berlin: Karl Dietz.

11

THE NOVEMBER REVOLUTION: A NEW BEGINNING …

225

Luxemburg, Rosa. 2017e. Friedrich Adler (1917). In Gesammelte Werke, vol. 7.2, 1064–1066. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Marx, Karl. 1992. Letter to Ferdinan Domela Nieuwenhuis, 22 February 1881. In MECW , vol. 46, 65–67. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Pabst, Waldemar. 1962. Interview. Deutscher Studenten-Anzeiger. Unabhängiges Forum deutscher Hochschüler. Ritter, Rudolf (d.i. Wilhem Hoegner). 1945. Lehren der Weimarer Republik. Schweizer Monatshefte 25: 14–34. Rürup, Reinhard. 1994. Die Revolution von 1918/19 in der deutschen Geschichte. Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. Scharrer, Manfred. 1983. Die Spaltung der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung. Stuttgart: Edition Cordeliers. Schmidt, Giselher. 1988. Rosa Luxemburg. Sozialistin zwischen Ost und West. Göttingen: Hansen-Schmidt. Schütrumpf, Jörn. 2018a. Von Hechingen nach Moskau – aus der Provinz an die Peripherie. In Gesammelte Schriften, Reden und Briefe, Band I/1, Paul Levi, ed. Jörn Schütrumpf, 33–80. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Schütrumpf, Jörn (ed.). 2018b. Spartakusaufstand. Der unterschlagene Bericht des Untersuchungsausschusses der verfassunggebenden Preußischen Landesversammlung über die Januar-Unruhen 1919 in Berlin. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Tych, Feliks. 2010. Leo Jogiches und Rosa Luxemburg. Beeinflussung in der Zeit der Revolution 1918/19. In Rosa Luxemburg. Ökonomische und historischpolitische Aspekte ihres Werkes: Internationale Rosa-Luxemburg-Gesellschaft in Tokio, April 2007, und Berlin, Januar 2009, ed. Narihiko Ito, Annelies Laschitza, and Ottokar Luban, 175–180. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Weber, Hermann (ed.). 1993. Die Gründung der KPD. Protokoll und Materialien des Gründungsparteitages der Kommunistischen Partei Deutschlands 1918/1919. Mit einer Einführung zur angeblichen Erstveröffentlichung durch die SED. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Winkler, Heinrich August. 1985. Von der Revolution zur Stabilisierung. Arbeiter und Arbeiterbewegung in der Weimarer Republik 1918 bis 1924. Berlin: J.H.W. Dietz Nachf. Winkler, Heinrich August. 1993. Weimar 1918–1933. Die Geschichte der ersten deutschen Demokratie. München: C.H.Beck.

CHAPTER 12

Spat at, Adored, but Also Indispensable?

Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Victor Hugo Those who are ahead of their time often have to wait for it in uncomfortable quarters. Stanisław Jerzy Lec

Fear of the Luxemburg would not soon dissipate among her enemies (in either camp), even after her death. In 1933, the Nazis immediately had the red star removed from the Monument to the Revolution that had been designed by Mies van der Rohe and erected near the graves of Luxemburg and Liebknecht. In 1935, the whole monument was taken down and the graves were levelled. The headstones can today be found in a museum. Rosa Luxemburg’s work was largely forgotten for a while, a process that is typical in and of itself and undergone by most thinkers. However, in the case of Luxemburg, this process was actively promoted. As Stalin endeavoured to ‘purify’ the socialist movement and the idea of socialism from any kind of democracy, and to replace the latter with the ‘democratic centralism’ of Lenin’s Bolsheviks, Luxemburg received a quite unconventional kind of honour: her work was ‘whitewashed’. Stalin still remembered a construct invented by Grigory Zinoviev (1883–1936) © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 M. Brie and J. Schütrumpf, Rosa Luxemburg, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67486-1_12

227

228

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

while he served as chair of the Communist International from 1919 to 1926, and therefore figured as one of Stalin’s main competitors: Luxemburgism. Stalin used this construct in his inner-party struggle for power, which had entered into its final phase by the beginning of the 1930s, the phase in which the entire old guard of Bolshevism was eliminated. He wrote: They [Parvus and Rosa Luxemburg] invented an utopian and semiMenshevik scheme of permanent revolution (a distorted representation of the Marxist scheme of revolution), which was permeated through and through with the Menshevik repudiation of the policy of alliance between the working class and peasantry, and they counterposed this scheme to the Bolshevik scheme of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry Subsequently, this semi-Menshevik scheme of permanent revolution was seized upon by Trotsky (in part by Martov) and turned into a weapon of struggle against Leninism. Josef Stalin (1949, 93)

This was particularly strange given that, bar her theory of accumulation, Luxemburg had never systematically laid out her theoretical positions, instead developing them in opposition to other views. Luxemburg never produced a coherent theory containing its own political economy, philosophy, political theory or social psychology. Yet, Luxemburg’s legacy and what made her so dangerous for Stalinism lay not in any theoretical concepts she may have authored but rather her political positions and personal stance: her uncompromising demands for democracy and for transparency on the left, as well as her unwavering insistence on freedom as the fundamental basis for any emancipatory movement. Since it was hardly possible to contest these, a coherent theory had to be invented, with Stalin’s ideologues going about the task with meticulous rigour. They combed through the works of Lenin and Luxemburg with their eyes on a number of issues, filtered out the differences and, in canonising Lenin’s positions, declared Luxemburg’s as ‘mistakes’. Finally, these ‘mistakes’ were systematised, and thus was Luxemburgism born. The results were labelled Luxemburg’s ‘utopian and half-Menshevist scheme’ and presented to a Communist International in which no one dared protest any longer. Claudio Pozzoli is right to remark on the fate of Luxemburg that ‘She was murdered twice. And twice, it was a double-murder: first by counter-revolution and social democracy, later by Stalinism. Not only was she to be physically liquidated, not only

12

SPAT AT, ADORED, BUT ALSO INDISPENSABLE?

229

was her memory to be eliminated: her ideas needed to be labelled as sick, her writings suppressed and those who saw in her a symbol of revolution treated as lepers so that nothing more would stand in the way of the bureaucratic incapacitation of workers’ organisations’ (Pozzoli 1974a, 13). The Stalinists only made this much of an effort with one other figure: Trotsky, Stalin’s opponent for whom another ‘ism’, ‘Trotskyism’, was coined. Trotsky’s followers did however later turn this label around and used it for their own purposes. While the stigma of being labelled a Trotskyite almost automatically led to being killed from the mid-1930s onwards, Luxemburgism was only characterised as ‘half-Menshevist’—an attribute which only specialists can decode, but which can be translated as ‘weak Trotskyism’. The central goal was to destroy Luxemburg’s authority and to make sure that no one in Stalin’s sphere of influence would ever refer to her demands for democracy and freedom again. What will be the legacy of the figure of Rosa Luxemburg—born in the Polish city of Zamo´sc´ on 5 March 1871, dumped into the Landwehr Canal in the Berliner Tiergarten by her murderers on 15 January 1919? Will this legacy be anything more than her name and the history of her murder? Do the driving motifs of her life’s work—the contradictions that shaped it, the questions she faced with existential determination until her early death—still carry significance today? After Luxemburg’s murder, her work was carried forward by only a few others. Primary among these was of course Paul Levi, Luxemburg’s political successor, although his attempt to permanently establish Luxemburg’s political approach outside of the KPD and SPD soon failed (Bloch 1998). Following his expulsion from the Communist Party in 1921, he turned to the legacy of his murdered comrade, publishing The Russian Revolution in 1921 and Introduction to Political Economy in 1925. Based on Luxemburg’s lectures at the SPD party school, the Introduction constituted together with The Accumulation of Capital Luxemburg’s work in political economy. As late as 1922, Luxemburg’s theory of accumulation was described in an orientation for a course at the KPD party school as the ‘theoretical foundation of communism in Germany’ (Kinner 2001, 595). However, positive reference to Luxemburg’s theoretical work ceased with the ‘Bolshevisation’ of the KPD. As Peter Nettl wrote in his biography of Luxemburg, ‘The creation of only two alternatives, Bolshevism or social democracy as they developed, retrospectively narrowed the area of choice;

230

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

at the time Rosa’s ideas were a lively third alternative’ (Nettl 1966a, 751). It is precisely this alternative that was suppressed. Georg Lukács’s treatment of Luxemburg in his 1922 History and Class Consciousness would be of lasting significance. At the time, he saw Luxemburg and Lenin as the two historical figures responsible for re-establishing revolutionary Marxism in the early twentieth century. As he wrote in the foreword to the text, ‘I would say, firstly, that Rosa Luxemburg, alone among Marx’s disciples, has made a real advance on his life’s work in both the content and method of his economic doctrines. She alone has found a way to apply them concretely to the present state of social development’ (Lukács 1971, xli). For Lukács, it was clear that ‘a truly revolutionary, Communist and Marxist position can be acquired only through a critical confrontation with the theoretical life’s work of Rosa Luxemburg’ (Lukács 1971, xlii). By taking the totality of social reproduction as the point of departure for her theory of accumulation, Lukács argued, Luxemburg was able to provide a foundation for revolutionary Realpolitik. This argument was based on Lukács’s thesis that the ‘primacy of the category of totality is the bearer of the principle of revolution in science’ (Lukács 1971, 27), given that capitalist society can only be viewed historically when conceived of as a totality. Furthermore, Lukács continued, only this knowledge enables a politics that mediates the final goal with every single concrete action: ‘The ultimate goal is rather that relation to the totality (to the whole of society seen as a process), through which every aspect of the struggle acquires its revolutionary significance’ (Lukács 1971, 22). However, the writings produced by Lukács between 1921–1922 that laid the basis of History and Class Consciousness display an progressive turning away from Luxemburg’s primacy of self-empowerment and towards Lenin’s party form, leading Lukács to the following conclusion: ‘Freedom cannot represent a value in itself (any more than socialisation). Freedom must serve the rule of the proletariat, not the other way round’ (Lukács 1971, 292). This reduces freedom to an instrument of rule, which is notable in the light of Lukács’s vehement defence of the KPD’s March Action in 1921—a failed uprising condemned by both Paul Levi and Clara Zetkin as putchism. The only figure to develop a theoretical system combining Luxemburg’s work in political economy and her strategic thought was Fritz Sternberg. In his 1926 book Der Imperialismus, Sternberg argues that

12

SPAT AT, ADORED, BUT ALSO INDISPENSABLE?

231

the connection ‘between expanded reproduction and intrusion into noncapitalist space has been methodically revealed by Rosa Luxemburg. Our position on her book, which is of epochal importance for the continued development of Marxism, is as follows: we regard her critique of the Marxian schemata as correct. […] However, there are decisive mistakes in the links in her argumentation’ (Sternberg 1929, 19f.). Sternberg corrected many of these mistakes, but like Luxemburg herself, he remained a lone voice in the wilderness. Following his adoption of US citizenship in 1948 until his death in 1963, he pieced together a living for himself as a freelancer primarily in the trade-union milieu—just as he had done before his emigration in 1933. He never received a professorship (for more on Sternberg see Grebing 2014). Although Fritz Sternberg was one of the most important unorthodox Marxists of the Weimar Republic and the period that followed, he remains virtually unknown today in contrast to Georg Lukács or Karl Korsch. Nevertheless, at the time of its appearance in 1926, Der Imperialismus caused a sensation. Sternberg was initially influenced by Martin Buber and tended towards Zionist socialism and later worked as the assistant to Franz Oppenheimer at the University of Frankfurt am Main. However, after a falling-out with Oppenheimer in 1923, Sternberg focused on laying a Marxist foundation for the imperialist epoch. He became the ‘star of the radical youth left-socialism of the Weimar years’, the ‘intellectual giver of catchwords [Stichwortgeber] of an intellectual generation of young socialists’ (Franz Walter quoted in Grebing 2014, 143f.). Bertolt Brecht referred to him as his ‘first teacher’ (Sternberg 2014, 13). Based on his original reformulation of Luxemburg’s theory of accumulation, Sternberg concluded that revolutionary action can not only occur too early, but also too late, and in a double sense at that: first, the working classes in the countries of the metropole could be raised to a level on which they would have much more to lose than their chains, and especially in a revolution. For Sternberg, this was true of the growing strata of salaried employees as well. No class would be able to immediately improve its objective situation through revolution (Sternberg 1971, 347). And second, a process of civilisational decline could set in that would become increasingly difficult to halt. With another world war already foreseeable, Sternberg wrote in the middle of the 1920s that it was time to build an ‘anti-imperialist bloc’, for only this would make it ‘possible at all that, in the wake of or already in the course of the next imperialist war, the world revolution might take a decisive step forward’ (Sternberg 1971, 361).

232

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Sternberg developed a version of the Marxian theory of accumulation that attempted to do justice to the complexity of the imperialist epoch. In spite of dominant tendencies all pointing in one direction, Sternberg saw the emergence of a contradictory and indeed ‘diabolical’ conflict situation in which social forces needed more than ever to constitute themselves through self-organisation and counter-hegemonic struggle if the epoch of world war, regression and civilisational decline was to be confronted. This position is summarised as follows: On one side, imperialism with its bundle of wars, bringing in its wake a decline in social maturity, barbarism and the facelessness of Euramerica. On the one side stands hell. On the other side stands the socialist revolution, civil war under aggravated conditions, under the bloodiest battles, under a necessary, long-lasting decline of society’s productive forces. But whereas hell stands on one side, on the other stands the hope for a new epoch in the history of humanity once the socialist revolution has been carried out. (Sternberg 1929, 134)

In addition to Luxemburg’s theoretical work, her life has also been the subject of a series of publications. Shortly after Luxemburg’s death, Luise Kautsky produced a memorial to her friend that remains relevant to this day by publishing a selection of Luxemburg’s letters to herself and her husband Karl Kautsky (Kautsky 1923). Louise Kautsky later wrote a very personal biographical sketch of Luxemburg (L. Kautsky 1929), which appeared in a commemorative book in 1928. In 1937, this was followed by a book by Henriette Roland-Holst (1937), which also consisted of personal accounts of Luxemburg that were written by close friends. The first comprehensive biography of Luxemburg was produced by Paul Frölich. After representing Bremen’s radical left at the founding conference of the KPD, Frölich stayed true to his commitment to instilling left-wing socialism in the German labour movement. Until his expulsion from the KPD in 1928, he was the editor in charge of Rosa Luxemburg’s collected works, overseeing the publication of Volume VI (Accumulation Theory) in 1923, Volume III (Writings Against Reformism) in 1925 and Volume IV (Labour Union Struggle and Mass Strike) in 1928. His biography of Luxemburg, written from his exile in Paris, appeared in 1939 and still retains significance today because it makes immediately palpable the spirit that Luxemburg radiated to

12

SPAT AT, ADORED, BUT ALSO INDISPENSABLE?

233

her contemporaries. In foreword to the new edition from 1948, Frölich wrote: During the First World War […], when [Luxemburg] experienced the collapse of the International and the crossing of the socialist parties into the imperialist camp, when the working masses were making one sacrifice after the other for the capitalist order, and the German proletarians in uniform were letting themselves be misused even against the Russian Revolution, Rosa repeated the warning more and more loudly: ‘the catastrophes into which capitalist society will be plunged do not by themselves offer the certainty that capitalism will be superseded by socialism. If the working class itself does not find the strength for its own liberation, then the whole of society, including the working class, could be consumed in internecine struggles. Mankind now stands before the alternatives: either socialism or descent into barbarism!’ (Frölich 2010, xvii)

After World War II, decades would pass before a genuinely new reception of Luxemburg’s work set in. The third volume of Alfred Döblin’s novel November 1918: A German Revolution, which bore the title Karl and Rosa, received virtually no attention until the late 1970s (Doblin 1986). In East Germany, Fred Oelßner’s book Rosa Luxemburg. Eine kritische biographische Skizze appeared in 1951. At the time, Oelßner was a member of the politburo of the Socialist Unity Party (SED), the Communist state party of East Germany, and was regarded as its chief ideologue. That being said, he had gained notoriety time and again over the course of his career for holding unorthodox views, and ultimately began to advocate a course of increased reform after 1956 before being forced out of the politburo in 1958. His book is shaped by the ambivalent attitude of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union as well as of the SED towards Luxemburg. While the first part of the work is titled ‘A Militant Life’, the second is titled ‘A Flawed System’. In place of the Luxemburgian process of an open search within the real contradictions of the German, Polish, Russian and international labour movement, Luxemburg is attributed a mechanistic worldview, theory of collapse and adoration of spontaneity. She is also said to have advocated a ‘Menshevist stage theory’ in the revolution of 1918–1919, and to have rejected a ‘campaign plan for the proletarian army’. Even her rejection of terror is criticised. Oelßner wrote with tremendous admiration for Luxemburg’s person and strict condemnation of her primary political orientation, even making

234

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

her directly responsible for the defeat of the Communist Movement in Germany prior to 1933: As great as Rosa Luxemburg’s service to the German labour movement was, as much as we bow in reverence for her militant life, as much as we love Rosa for her relentless struggle for the workers’ cause, we must not forget: great were also her errors and mistakes, which steered the German working class down the wrong path. Above all, we must not blind ourselves to the fact that what is at stake is not isolated mistakes, but an entire system of false views (‘Luxemburgism’). These views were one of the decisive factors for the defeats of the Communist Party of Germany following its founding […]. (Oelßner 1951, 7f.)

The 1920s witnessed the first attempt (mentioned above) to publish Rosa Luxemburg’s collected works. In 1951, a three-volume selected works appeared in East Germany, and in 1966, Ossip K. Flechtheim published a three-volume edition of Luxemburg’s political writings. Following a resolution of the SED politburo, a five-volume collected works was put out from 1970–1975 in Eastern Germany; this edition included Organisational Questions of Russian Social Democracy (1904) and The Russian Revolution (1918), particularly controversial texts from the standpoint of ‘Marxism-Leninism’, and was based on extensive research. Similarly, another important requirement for comprehensively analysing Luxemburg’s work was produced in the late 1960s, when the Polish historian Feliks Tych published 800 of her surviving letters to Leo Jogiches. The attempt to produce a comprehensive biography and appraisal of Luxemburg within the bounds of Marxism-Leninism left its mark on the 1971 work Rosa Luxemburg. Ihr Wirken in der Arbeiterbewegung by Annelies Laschitza and Günter Radczun, who were the driving forces behind the publication of Luxemburg’s writings and Letters in East Germany. Laschitza was also responsible for the newest volumes of the collected works (Volumes VI and VII), which appeared in the 2010s. Holger Politt’s German publication of important Polish texts on the national question—texts that were written by Luxemburg in connection with the First Russian Revolution—made it possible for German-speaking scholars to truly subject Luxemburg’s body of work to comprehensive analysis for the first time, expanding beyond the exclusive focus on her activities in German Social Democracy.

12

SPAT AT, ADORED, BUT ALSO INDISPENSABLE?

235

Numerous writings by Luxemburg remain inaccessible to this day in both German and English. Furthermore, if it is true that Luxemburg herself saw ‘her most important sphere of intellectual labour in Poland’ (Roland-Holst 1937, 75), then there remains much work to be done before her legacy is completely accounted for. The German collected works are not yet complete, and the English and Chinese versions have only recently been taken up under the leadership of Peter Hudis (Chicago) and He Ping (Wuhan); these versions will include Luxemburg’s Polish and Russian writings. In Brasil, a three-volume edition of Luxemburg’s work has been published by Isabel Loureiro. The 1960s saw the beginning of a new wave in the reception of Rosa Luxemburg’s work which has lasted until the present. This was triggered by the exhaustion of traditional social democratic and communist strategies the world over, setting off processes of searching for alternatives which led to both Antonio Gramsci and Rosa Luxemburg—two thinkers who appeared to offer concepts on both a theoretical level, as well as on a strategic one. ‘The appeal of Luxemburg was, at least initially, quite obvious: her political position outside of the ever more imprisoning polarities of authoritarian communism and social democracy; the emphasis on radical democracy to upset the organisational sclerosis of unions and leftist parties; the resounding trumpet for participatory democracy; and the focus, found in the Accumulation of Capital, on imperialism and colonial occupations’ (Albo 2016, 27). In the case of Luxemburg, it was above all two approaches that became the focus of subsequent reception. First, there was a rediscovery of her particular understanding of politics, with the self-empowerment of the working class at its midpoint. Here, emphasis was placed time and again on her understanding of democracy as revolutionary practice in which the subjects of emancipation are constituted while producing the conditions of their own self-liberation in the same process.1 Second, her theory of accumulation was systematically invoked. Understood as a radical expansion of the analysis of capitalism, this theory continues to inspire feminist, anti-imperialist, ecological and

1 Peter Bierl has drawn attention to this aspect of Luxemburg’s work: ‘A left politics

committed to the goals of a society beyond capitalism and bourgeois parliamentarianism must theoretically and practically counter the dominant liberal concept of democracy with one of its own, one that enables collective self-determination and ensures that future revolutionary attempts will not end again in dictatorships of state bureaucracies’ (Bierl 1993, 13).

236

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

care-work-centred approaches to politics, and has also been taken up by the degrowth movement. John Peter Nettl’s extensive bibliography (1966a, b) has become the standard work of research on Luxemburg’s life. Nettl’s own Czech background, childhood in Vienna and subsequent emigration to Great Britain and later the USA sensitised him to how Luxemburg was influenced by her specific socio-cultural milieu all the way up to her death. Luxemburg had the same close-knit circle of political confidantes until the end, and for Nettl, her self-consciousness was in part the ‘product of the secure political group in which she was firmly anchored from 1893 until after the first Russian revolution. All those who have written about Rosa Luxemburg have seen only the personal aspect and have ignored the social one’ (Nettl 1966b, 22). Nettl’s biography appeared at the start of an extended wave of Western European reception of Rosa Luxemburg’s work that began in the 1960s. This was inaugurated with a work on Luxemburg’s ‘dialectics of revolution’ by Lelio Basso (1969), one of the most important left-socialist politicians in Italy, and a work on the German Spartacists by the French historian Gilbert Badia (1967). In West Germany, Rowohlt published a very brief biography and anthology by Joachim Hirsch (1969), which is still worth reading today. Another Luxemburg biography appeared the following decade, the most comprehensive since the biography by Nettl. Written by Gilbert Badia, it was published under the title Rosa Luxemburg —Journaliste, Polémiste, Revolutionaire (Badia 1975)—unfortunately, it has yet to be translated into either English or German. In this book, Badia approaches Luxemburg’s work above as a great linguistic achievement. In 2002, Annelies Laschitza presented a new comprehensive Luxemburg biography that incorporated newer scholarly findings (Laschitza 2002). In addition to the biographies mentioned here, many other biographies of Luxemburg and accounts of her work have been published (Geras 1976; Drabkin 1988; Schmidt 1988; Ettinger 1990; Gallo 1993; Cheng Renqian 1994; Soden 1995; Shepardson 1996; Seidemann 1998; Hetmann 1998; Maurer 1999; Dath 2010; Piper 2018), including the impressive graphic novel by Kate Evans (2015). Additionally, a remarkable ‘collection’ of elements for a critical re-reading of Luxemburg’s work following the collapse of state socialism has been undertaken by Reinhard Hoßfeld (1993). The 1970s witnessed a turn towards Luxemburg’s theory of capitalist accumulation. This was set in motion by Marxist critics of the emerging

12

SPAT AT, ADORED, BUT ALSO INDISPENSABLE?

237

system of neo-colonial dependence of the ‘Third World’ (see among others Amin 1977; Pedrosa 1979) and by the new feminist movement (see Mies 1986; Werlhof et al. 1988). Initially strategically oriented, this reception focused on exploring possibilities for emancipatory struggle at the sites of the North-South conflict and the conflict between capital accumulation and reproductive labour. However, the transition to neoliberal finance capitalism caused the horizon of this reception to expand, as it became increasingly clear how closely capital accumulation was intertwined with social reproduction in its entirety, how accumulation was continuing to penetrate and reshape society and which aggressive and destructive forms capital’s domination was assuming (Harvey 2003; Dörre 2009; Schmidt 2013a; Dörre 2013; see for a detailed analysis of the broader discussion Brie 2016). Time and again, the linkage between disparate relations of domination (along lines of class, gender and race) has been analysed with reference to Luxemburg’s accumulation theory. On the basis of Luxemburg’s work, Frigga Haug has produced important studies on the ‘politics of women’ as well as on the concept of revolutionary Realpolitik and the particular relationship between theory and empirical evidence contained therein (Haug 2007; see also Brie 2009). As recent work by Isabel Loureiro reveals, Rosa Luxemburg’s notion of the limits of capitalisation has resurfaced in a different manner in the discourse on ecology: ‘The current model of “accumulation by expropriation” is connected, among others problems, with problems of unsustainable agricultural practices: expansion of monocultures, use of pesticides, soil degradation, deforestation, biodiversity destruction, disappearing water resources, pollution of water sources, food insecurity, increasing food prices’. According to Loureiro, capital cannot accumulate infinitely. ‘However, this is not because the entire world will one day become capitalised such that capitalism will reach its logical and historical limit, as in Luxemburg’s work, but rather because of the natural limits of our planet’ (Loureiro 2013, 121). The first scholarly conference on Rosa Luxemburg in Western Europe was held in Reggio Emilia from 18–22 September 1973—mere days after the military putsch in Chile that toppled Salvador Allende’s socialist government. Organised by Lelio Basso, this conference marked the beginning of an international cooperation in Luxemburg research that culminated in 1980 with the founding of the International Rosa Luxemburg Society in Zurich, an initiative spearheaded by Narihiko Ito. Among

238

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

others, Gilbert Badia, Michael Löwy, Irène Petit, Theo Pinkus, Feliks Tych and Claudie Weill participated in this effort (Ito 2007, 87). In 1973, Basso argued for Luxemburg’s continued relevance by asking ‘whether [her] legacy […], which has been relatively neglected over the last 40 years, might actually contain useful elements – especially for the Western labour movement – as a link between Marxian thought and the reality of the world today’ (quoted in Pozzoli 1974b, 7). The reception of Luxemburg stems from an awareness of the persistent strategic crisis of the left, and from the search for alternatives. As such, it has become global in recent years. Past conferences of the International Rosa Luxemburg Society have been held in Beijing, Berlin, Bochum, Chicago, Guangzhou, Hamburg, Moskau, Tokyo, Seoul, Tampere and Warsaw (see for more details Internationale Rosa-Luxemburg-Gesellschaft 2020), while numerous conference volumes have been published, providing an overview of the global Luxemburg reception (Bergmann et al. 1995; Bergmann and Haible 1997; Das Argument 1997; Ito et al. 2002, 2007, 2010). Throughout, Luxemburg’s concept of democracy and her theory of accumulation have remained the central points of reference. In Brasil, the turn to Luxemburg was connected to efforts to build new social and political forces, with founding figures of the Worker’ Party (PT), the Landless People’s Movement (MST) as well as of movements for a solidary economy drawing upon her work (see Loureiro 2003, 2010). Since the 1980s and the onset of a more reform-oriented and open politics in the People’s Republic of China, an intensive reception of Luxemburg has occurred in China as well (He Ping 2010; Wang Xue-Dong 2010; He Ping 2013). The past decade has also seen a renewed and deepened discussion of Luxemburg’s economic work (I. Schmidt 2013b; Bellofiore 2013; Dellheim and Wolf 2016). Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson summarise the questions raised by this work as follows: ‘Her insistence on the need for revolutionary democracy after the seizure of power addresses some of the major unanswered questions of our time, such as: Is there an alternative to capitalism? Is it possible to stop global capital’s drive for self-expansion without reproducing the horrors of bureaucracy and totalitarianism? Can humanity be free in an era defined by globalized capitalism and terrorism? Finally, her position as a woman leader and theoretician in a largely maledominated socialist movement has prompted … new reflections on gender and revolution’ (Hudis and Anderson 2004, 7f.).

12

SPAT AT, ADORED, BUT ALSO INDISPENSABLE?

239

In Berlin, Rosa Luxemburg’s name was never forgotten, in contrast to countless others. In part, this owes to one group of her political opponents: the Stalinists. The Stalinists certainly did have use for the ‘corpse’ of Luxemburg, who in contrast to Trotsky could be separated from her work and presented as a ‘pure’ revolutionary—a mute icon. This schizophrenia was nurtured in the Eastern Bloc until 1989, albeit less so over time. In East Germany, the second Sunday of each January became a day on which the falsifiers of Luxemburg’s cause took to a heated grandstand to celebrate her. Tens of thousands had to file past a backdrop specially designed for the occasion—far removed from the original gravesite of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. A renewed turn towards Luxemburg in East Germany was the result of the tentative processes of opening following Stalin’s death—processes that, in spite of all setbacks they encountered in the Soviet Union and its associated state-socialist countries, eventually led to Perestroika. In both the Soviet Union itself and in Poland, new attempts were undertaken to appraise Luxemburg’s life and work (on the reception in Poland after 1945 see Politt 2015: 1399–1402). As Holger Politt correctly notes, ‘As Poland’s workers shook the country with a tremendous strike wave in the summer of 1980, it appeared as if they were operating according to the recipes penned by Luxemburg. The workers’ struggle for civil liberties was always supported by her; yet, she would have certainly criticized, too hastily delegation of political leadership by the workers into the hands of others, who were following their own interests’ (Politt 2015, 1400). In January 1988, dissidents invoked Luxemburg’s demand for the freedom of those who think differently, intensifying the political crisis at the end of the East Germany. In this way, her critique of the Bolshevist dictatorship of the party became endowed with an immediate and real power. Following the collapse of East Germany, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht continue to be commemorated in Berlin on every second Sunday of January as two victims of counter-revolutionary ‘white terror’. For many participants from near and far, this occasion is also a chance to mourn the left’s defeat in the twentieth century, and for some— and hardly a few at that—to mourn the loss of power. In the city that stood divided between 1948 and 1989, that in 1919 bore witness to the murders in question, there are now more monuments to Rosa Luxemburg than any other figure. However, for quite some time, none of these were to be found at the city square bearing her name: Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, where the Volksbühne theatre has stood since 1914. The first attempt to

240

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

erect a monument at this location was blocked by the leadership of the SED in 1951, and only in 2006 was it adorned with a ‘Denkzeichen’, or ‘memorial mark’. Doubtless in keeping with Rosa Luxemburg’s selfimage, the initiators and designers of this installation did not want to place her on a pedestal—probably knowing that she would cause the least stir from one. Instead, one hundred of her sentences, embossed in metal letters, were set into the earth. Whether or not Rosa Luxemburg would have burst into laughter at the notion of seeing her statements cast in bronze for eternity is something we will never know.

Bibliography Albo, Greg. 2016. Rosa Luxemburg and Contemporary Capitalism. In Rosa Luxemburg: A Permanent Challenge for Political Economy. On the History and the Present of Luxemburg’s “Accumulation of Capital,” ed. Judith Dellheim and Frieder Otto Wolf, 25–54. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Amin, Samir. 1977. Imperialism and Unequal Development. Marxist Theory and Contemporary Capitalism. Hassocks: Harvester Press. Badia, Gilbert. 1967. Le Spartakisme. Les dernières années de Rosa Luxemburg et de Karl Liebknecht 1914–1919. Paris: L’Arche. Badia, Gilbert. 1975. Rosa Luxemburg. Journaliste, polémiste, révolutionnaire. Paris: Éditions sociales,. Basso, Lelio. 1969. Rosa Luxemburgs Dialektik der Revolution. Hamburg: Europäische Verlagsanst. Bellofiore, Riccardo (ed.). 2013. Rosa Luxemburg and the Critique of Political Economy. London: Routledge. Bergmann, Theodor, and Wolfgang Haible (eds.). 1997. Reform – Demokratie – Revolution. Zur Aktualität von Rosa Luxemburg. Supplement der Zeitschrift „Sozialismus“ 5/1997 . Hamburg: VSA. Bergmann, Theodor, Jürgen Rojahn, and Fritz Weber (eds.). 1995. Die Freiheit der Andersdenkenden. Rosa Luxemburg und das Problem der Demokratie. Hamburg: VSA. Bierl, Peter. 1993. Alle Macht den Räten. Rosa Luxemburg: Rätedemokratie und Sozialismus. Köln: ISP. Bloch, Charles. 1998. Paul Levi – Ein Symbol der Tragödie des Linkssozialismus in der Weimarer Republik. In Juden in der Weimarer Republik, ed. Walter Grab and Julius H. Schoeps, 244–262. Darmstadt: Primus Verlag. Brie, Michael (ed.). 2009. Radikale Realpolitik Plädoyer für eine andere Politik. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Brie, Michael. 2016. A Critical Reception of Accumulation of Capital. In Rosa Luxemburg: A Permanent Challenge for Political Economy. On the History and

12

SPAT AT, ADORED, BUT ALSO INDISPENSABLE?

241

the Present of Luxemburg’s “Accumulation of Capital”, ed. Judith Dellheim and Frieder Otto Wolf, 261–303. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Cheng Renqian. 1994. Liuosha Lusenbao Shengping He Sixiang. Beijing: People’s Publishing House. Das Argument (ed.). 1997. Die Linie Luxemburg - Gramsci. Zur Aktualität und Historizität marxistischen Denkens. Argument Sonderband AS 159. Berlin: Argument. Dath, Dietmar. 2010. Rosa Luxemburg. Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag. Dellheim, Judith, and Frieder Otto Wolf (eds.). 2016. Rosa Luxemburg: A Permanent Challenge for Political Economy. On the History and the Present of Luxemburg’s “Accumulation of Capital”. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Doblin, Alfred. 1986. Karl and Rosa. November, 1918: A German Revolution. New York, NY: Fromm International. Dörre, Klaus. 2009. Die neue Landnahme: Dynamiken und Grenzen des Finanzmarktkapitalismus. In Soziologie - Kapitalismus - Kritik: eine Debatte, Klaus Dörre, Stephan Lessenich, and Hartmut Rosa, 21–86. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Dörre, Klaus. 2013. Landnahme und Grenzen sozialer Reproduktion. Zur gesellschaftstheoretischen Bedeutung Rosa Luxemburgs. In Rosa Luxemburgs “Akkumulation des Kapitals”. Die Aktualität von ökonomischer Theorie, Imperialismuserklärung und Klassenanalyse, ed. Ingo Schmidt, 82–116. Hamburg: VSA. Drabkin, Jakow S. 1988. Die Aufrechten. Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Franz Mehring, Clara Zetkin. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Ettinger, Elzbieta. ˙ 1990. Rosa Luxemburg. Ein Leben. Bonn: J.F.W. Dietz. Evans, Kate. 2015. Red Rosa. A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg. New York: Verso. Frölich, Paul. 2010. Rosa Luxemburg: Ideas in Action, trans. Johanna Hoornweg. Chicago: Haymarket Books. Gallo, Max. 1993. Rosa Luxemburg. Eine Biographie. Düsseldorf/Zürich: Benziger Verlag. Geras, Norman. 1976. Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg. London: New Left Books. Grebing, Helga. 2014. Nachwort der Herausgeberin. In Der Dichter und die Ratio. Erinnerungen an Bertolt Brecht, Fritz Sternberg, 141–163. Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag. Harvey, David. 2003. The New Imperialism. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Haug, Frigga. 2007. Rosa Luxemburg und die Kunst der Politik. Hamburg: Argument. He Ping. 2010. Rosa Luxemburgs “Akkumulation des Kapitals” und China. In Rosa Luxemburg. Ökonomische und historisch-politische Aspekte ihres Werkes: Internationale Rosa-Luxemburg-Gesellschaft in Tokio, April 2007, und Berlin,

242

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Januar 2009, ed. Narihiko Ito, Annelies Laschitza, and Ottokar Luban, 43– 49. Berlin: Karl Dietz. He Ping. 2013. Rosa Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital: East and West. In Rosa Luxemburg and the Critique of Political Economy, ed. Riccardo Bellofiore, 144–158. London: Routledge. Hetmann, Frederik. 1998. Eine Kerze, die an beiden Seiten brennt. Freiburg: Herder. Hirsch, Helmut. 1969. Rosa Luxemburg. Reinbek: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag. Hoßfeld, Reinhard. 1993. Rosa Luxemburg oder Die Kühnheit des eigenen Urteils. Aachen: Karin Fischer. Hudis, Peter, and Kevin B. Anderson. 2004. Introduction. In The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, Rosa Luxemburg, ed. Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, 7–30. New York: Monthly Review Press. Internationale Rosa-Luxemburg-Gesellschaft. 2020. Website. Internationale Rosa-Luxemburg-Gesellschaft. Ito, Narihiko. 2007. Wegweiser zum Gedanken Rosa Luxemburgs. Tokyo: Jungetsusha. Ito, Narihiko, Theodor Bergmann, Stefan Hochstadt, and Ottokar Luban (eds.). 2007. China entdeckt Rosa Luxemburg: Internationale Rosa-LuxemburgGesellschaft in Guangzhou am 21./22. November 2004. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Ito, Narihiko, Annelies Laschitza, and Ottokar Luban (eds.). 2002. Rosa Luxemburg im internationalen Diskurs. Internationale Rosa-Luxemburg-Gesellschaft in Chicago, Tampere, Berlin und Zürich. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Ito, Narihiko, Annelies Laschitza, and Ottokar Luban (eds.). 2010. Rosa Luxemburg. Ökonomische und historisch-politische Aspekte ihres Werkes: Internationale Rosa-Luxemburg-Gesellschaft in Tokio, April 2007, und Berlin, Januar 2009. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Kautsky, Luise. 1923. Rosa Luxemburg. Briefe an Karl und Luise Kautsky 1896– 1918. Berlin: E. Laub´sche Verlagsbuchhandlung. Kinner, Klaus. 2001. Die Luxemburg-Rezeption in KPD und Komintern. Utopie Kreativ 129 (130): 595–603. Laschitza, Annelies. 2002. Im Lebensrausch, trotz alledem. Rosa Luxemburg. Eine Biographie. Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag. Loureiro, Isabel. 2003. Rosa Luxemburg. Dilemas da ação revolucionária. Editora UNESP. Loureiro, Isabel. 2010. Die Aktualität der Ideen Rosa Luxemburgs aus brasilianischer Sicht. In Rosa Luxemburg. Ökonomische und historisch-politische Aspekte ihres Werkes: Internationale Rosa-Luxemburg-Gesellschaft in Tokio, April 2007, und Berlin, Januar 2009, ed. Narihiko Ito, Annelies Laschitza, and Ottokar Luban, 10–21. Berlin: Karl Dietz.

12

SPAT AT, ADORED, BUT ALSO INDISPENSABLE?

243

Loureiro, Isabel. 2013. Die Aktualität von Rosa Luxemburgs »Akkumulation des Kapitals« in Lateinamerika. Jahrbuch für Forschungen zur Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung: 115–122. Lukács, György. 1971. History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialects, trans. Rodney Livingstone. Cambridge: MIT Press. Maurer, Margarete (ed.). 1999. Rosa Luxemburg: “Ich bin ein Land der unbeschränkten Möglichkeiten”. Wien: RLI-Verlag. Mies, Maria. 1986. Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale. Women in the International Division of Labour. Third World Books. London: Zed Books. Nettl, Peter J. 1966a. Rosa Luxemburg. In Two Volumes. Volume 2. London: Oxford University Press. Nettl, Peter J. 1966b. Rosa Luxemburg. In Two Volumes. Volume 1. London: Oxford University Press. Oelßner, Fred. 1951. Rosa Luxemburg. Eine kritische biographische Skizze. Berlin: Dietz. Pedrosa, Mário. 1979. A crise mundial do imperialismo e Rosa Luxemburgo. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira. Piper, Ernst. 2018. Rosa Luxemburg. Ein Leben. München: Karl Blessing Verlag. Politt, Holger. 2015. Luxemburgismus. In Historisch-kritisches Wörterbuch des Marxismus, Bd. 8/II , ed. Wolfgang Fritz Haug, Frigga Haug, Peter Jehle, and Wolfgang Küttler, 1393–1402. Hamburg: Argument. Pozzoli, Claudio. 1974a. Rosa Luxemburg als Marxist. In Rosa Luxemburg: oder die Bestimmung des Sozialismus, ed. Claudio Pozzoli, 9–20. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Pozzoli, Claudio. 1974b. Vorwort des Herausgebers. In Rosa Luxemburg: oder die Bestimmung des Sozialismus, ed. Claudio Pozzoli, 7–8. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Roland-Holst, Henriette. 1937. Rosa Luxemburg. Ihr Leben und Wirken. Zürich: Jean Christophe Verlag. Schmidt, Giselher. 1988. Rosa Luxemburg. Sozialistin zwischen Ost und West. Göttingen: Hansen-Schmidt. Schmidt, Ingo. 2013a. Geschichte und Sozialismus. In Rosa Luxemburgs “Akkumulation des Kapitals”. Die Aktualität von ökonomischer Theorie, Imperialismuserklärung und Klassenanalyse, ed. Ingo Schmidt, 138–165. Hamburg: VSA. Schmidt, Ingo (ed.). 2013b. Rosa Luxemburgs “Akkumulation des Kapitals”. Die Aktualität von ökonomischer Theorie, Imperialismuserklärung und Klassenanalyse. Hamburg: VSA. Seidemann, Maria. 1998. Rosa Luxemburg und Leo Jogiches. Die Liebe in den Zeiten der Revolution. Berlin: Rowohlt, Berlin. Shepardson, Donald E. 1996. Rosa Luxemburg and the Noble Dream. New York: Peter Lang.

244

M. BRIE AND J. SCHÜTRUMPF

Stalin, Joseph. 1949. Some Questions Concerning the History of Bolshevism. Letter to the Editorial Board of the Magazine “Proletarskaya Revolutsia” (1931). In Works, vol. 13, 86–104. Moscow: Foreign Language Publishing House. Sternberg, Fritz. 1929. Der Imperialismus und seine Kritiker. Berlin: Soziologische Verlagsanstalt. Sternberg, Fritz. 1971. Der Imperialismus. Frankfurt: Verlag Neue Kritik. Sternberg, Fritz. 2014. Der Dichter und die Ratio. Erinnerungen an Bertolt Brecht. Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag. von Soden, Kristine (ed.). 1995. Rosa Luxemburg. Berlin: Elefanten Press. Wang Xue-Dong. 2010. Zum Stand der Rosa-Luxemburg-Forschung in China. In Rosa Luxemburg. Ökonomische und historisch-politische Aspekte ihres Werkes: Internationale Rosa-Luxemburg-Gesellschaft in Tokio, April 2007, und Berlin, Januar 2009, ed. Narihiko Ito, Annelies Laschitza, and Ottokar Luban, 22– 29. Berlin: Karl Dietz. Werlhof, Claudia von, Maria Mies, and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen. 1988. Frauen, die letzte Kolonie. Zur Hausfrauisierung der Arbeit. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch.

Index

A ABC of socialism, 25 Accumulation of Capital , 14 Accumulation theory, 75 Albo, Greg, 154, 235 Alexander II, 39 Alexander III, 7 Allende, Salvador, 237 Amin, Samir, 237 An Anti-Critique, 153 Anderson, Kevin B., 238 Anti-Socialist Laws, 62, 65 Anton, Bernward, 138 Arendsee, Martha, 32 Arendt, Hannah, 140, 160, 194 Auer, Ignaz, 72 Auernheimer, Gustav, 160 Augsburg, Anita, 10 Auschwitz, 71

B Backlash of a revolution, 193 Baden, Max von, 205 Badia, Gilbert, 236, 238 Baier, Walter, 39 Bakunin, Mikhail, vii, 131 Balabanoff, Angelica, 194 Basso, Lelio, 236, 237 Bauer, Gustav, 204 Bebel, August, vii, 9, 62, 64, 65, 85 Beckert, Sven, 157 Beethoven, Ludwig van, 17 Bellofiore, Riccardo, 114, 158, 238 Bergmann, Theodor, 238 Bernstein, Eduard, 4, 28, 33, 52, 61, 62, 67, 75, 86, 95, 146 total revision of Marxism, 67 Berten, Peter, 32 Bierl, Peter, 235 Bismarck, Otto von, 32, 207

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 M. Brie and J. Schütrumpf, Rosa Luxemburg, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67486-1

245

246

INDEX

Blanqui, Louis Auguste, 185 Blanquism, 185 Bloch, Charles, 229 Bloch, Ernst, 18, 215 Bolsheviks, xi Bolshevist Communism, 31 Bonapartist phase of a revolution, 198 Bourgeois forms of consciousness, 56 Bourgeois state, 26 and socialist revolution, 74, 91 Bourgeois workers’ party, 77 Brandt, Peter, 211 Brangsch, Lutz, 114 Breakdown theory, 75 Brie, Michael, 140, 237 Buber, Martin, 231 Bukharin, Nikolai, 149 C Campanella, Tommaso, vii Capital , 51, 65, 84, 151 method of Karl Marx, 155 Capitalism and state power, 88 as an impossible world form, 152 tendency toward barbarism, 142 Catastrophes as moments of development, 75 Cauer, Minna, 10 Caysa, Volker, 2, 16 Cervantes, Miguel de, 35 Che Guevara, Ernesto, viii Cheng Renqian, 236 Class Struggles in France, 29 Cliff, Tony, 52 Colonialism, 73 Communist Manifesto, 48, 147 Communist Party of Germany (KPD), viii, x, 9, 25, 71 founding process and programme, 213

Conquest of political power by the proletariat , 74 Cooperatives, 73 Córdova, Armando, 151 Crimean War, 39 D Daemon, 3 Dath, Dietmar, 236 David, Eduard, 86, 92 Dellheim, Judith, 158, 238 Democratisation of Democracy, 99 Deutscher, Isaac, 188 Diefenbach, Hans, 5, 8, 13, 165 Die Gleichheit socialdemocratic women’s magazine, 11 Die Neue Zeit , 50 Djilas, Milovan, 198 Döblin, Alfred, 233 Dörre, Klaus, 237 Dossmann, Ernst, 15 Drabkin, Jakow S., 236 Dunayevskaya, Raya, 149, 158 E Eberhardt, Wilhelm, 72 Eberlein, Hugo, 178 Ebert, Friedrich, 205–207, 212 Eichhorn, Emil, 221 Eichhorn, Wolfgang, 67 Einstein, Albert, 71 Engels, Friedrich, vii, 25, 49, 62, 76, 85, 89, 146 fate of a leader of an extreme party in revolution, 195 Engels-Kautsky strategy, 37 Erfurt party conference of the SPD 1891, 65 Erfurt Programme of the SPD, 28, 32, 62

INDEX

Ernst, Eugen, 213 Ersatz Marxism, 28 Ettinger, Elzbieta, ˙ 220, 236

F Fanon, Frantz, viii Fetscher, Iring, 175 First German Congress of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils, 208 First World War, xi, 8, 28, 31 Fischart, Johannes, 185 Fischer, Ruth, 132 Flechtheim, Ossip K., 234 Fontane, Theodor, 71 Foucault, Michel, 16 Fourier, Charles, vii Freedom as the freedom of the others, 19 Frölich, Paul, 14, 232

G Gallo, Max, 236 Gap Between Marxist Theory and Socialist Practice, 84 Geide, Peter, 137 Geras, Norman, 236 Gerisch, Karl Alwin, 72 German Revolution of 1918–1919, 31 Gioia, Vittantonio, 2 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, xii, 9, 222 Gorky, Maxim, 166 Gramsci, Antonio, viii, 113, 235 Grebing, Helga, 154, 231 Groener, Wilhelm, 220 Group Liberation of Labour, 40 Guesde, Jules, 26

H Haenisch, Konrad, 34

247

Haible, Wolfgang, 238 Hammer Blow of the Revolution, 70 Hapsburg empire, 43 Harvey, David, 237 Haug, Frigga, 51, 116, 237 Haug, Wolfgang Fritz, 38 Haupt, Georges, 39 Hauptmann, Gerhart, 4 Heimann, Horst, 67 He Ping, 235, 238 Heraclitus, 3 Hetmann, Frederik, 2, 236 Hilferding, Rudolf, 149, 151 Hindenburg, Paul von, 171, 203 Hirsch, Joachim, 62, 147, 236 Hirsch, Paul, 221 Hitler, Adolf, 31 Hoßfeld, Reinhard, 236 Hobson, John Atkinson, 149 Ho Chi Minh, viii Howard, Dick, 115 Hudis, Peter, 157, 159, 235, 238 Hugo, Victor, 227 Human dignity, 19 I Imperialism, 29, 31 and accumulation of capital, 146 as a global system and the accumulation of capital, 160 defense by revisionists, 73 International lesbian movement, 10 International Rosa Luxemburg Society, 237 J Jacob, Mathilde, 71 Jameson, Frederic, 18 January 1919 uprising in Berlin, viii Jaurès, Jean, 81 Jesus, 4

248

INDEX

Jewish question, 7 Jewish revolutionaries in the Left movement, 71 Jogiches, Leo, vii, 4, 7, 17, 42, 45, 47, 54, 146, 166, 192, 213, 222 his importance for the work of Rosa Luxemburg, 45 Junius Pamphlet, 14, 17, 139

K Kant, Immanuel, 115 Kautsky, Karl, 18, 28, 62, 70, 83, 84, 89, 118, 128, 129, 132, 133, 146, 149, 172, 174, 188 Kautsky, Luise, 15, 232 Kinner, Klaus, 229 Kolb, Eberhard, 221 Korolenko, Vladimir, 14 Korsch, Karl, 231 Kossok, Manfred, 196 Krätke, Michael, 154 Krauß, Cornelia, 9 Kraus, Karl, 2 Kropotkin, Peter, vii Kulla, Ralf, 160 Küpper, Hendrik, 67

L Labour movement, 67 Lafargue, Paul, 26 Lange, Paul, 187 Laschitza, Annelies, 37, 61, 108, 234, 236 Lassalle, Ferdinand, vii, 16, 34, 71 Leadership in revolution, 73 Le Blanc, Paul, 154 Lec, Stanisław Jerzy, 227 Leipziger Volkszeitung , 62

Lenin, Vladimir I., vii, 19, 48, 53, 55, 108, 118, 139, 148, 151, 174, 178, 186, 188 appraisal and critique of Rosa Luxemburg, 184 Lensch, Paul, 34 Leonidov, Leonid, 31 Levi, Paul, 8, 18, 184, 188, 222, 230 on bolshevism, 196 Liebknecht, Karl, vii, 34, 129, 139, 203, 205, 207, 211, 213, 221, 222, 227, 239 Liebknecht, Wilhelm, 62, 65, 85 Loureiro, Isabel, 235, 238 Löwy, Michael, 19, 156, 238 Luban, Ottokar, 211, 221 Ludendorff, Erich, 204 Lukács, Georg, 114, 231 Lumumba, Patrice, viii Luxemburgism, 228 Luxemburg, Rosa activities during the November revolution 1918/19, 203 analysis of the Russian revolution of 1917, 168 appraisal and critique of the Bolshevist policy 1917/18, 168 as an botanist, 1 as a truth-speaker, 16 attitude in prison, 13 back to Marx in 1918/19, 25 capitalism as an impossible world form, 152 concept of a revolution in semi-developed countries, 192 contradictions of a socialist life, 12 controversy with Lenin on centralism and democracy in social-democratic parties, 109 critique of ‘NothingBut-Parliamentarism’, 130

INDEX

critique of the policy of the SPD before and after 1914, 137 defeat as a path to victory, 118 dictatorship of the proletariat and unrestricted democracy and freedom of speech and association, 181 editor of the newspaper Rote Fahne, 205 freedom of speech for the enemy, 120 her concept of revolution in Russia 1905, 118 her dissertation on the industrial development of the Kingdom of Poland, 38 her entrance into the German SPD, 65 her family, 9 her herbarium, 1 imprisonment during World War I, 141 national and peasant question in the Russian revolution of 1917/18, 170 national autonomy, 51 on general strike, 105 on the national question, 46 on the national question, Russia and Poland, 51 on the organizational question and leadership in social-democratic parties, 110 on violence, 217 political innovations by the unfettered movement, 110 position at the beginning of World War I, 138 positions before 1914, 130 positions on capitalism, state, reform and revolution 1899, 75

249

position toward the participation of socialists in bourgeois governments, 87 position toward violence, 101 relation between mass movements and parties, 115 relation to the women’s question, 11 role of analysis of pre-capitalist societies for her understanding of socialism and the critique of capitalism, 156 role of mass strikes in revolutions, 113 role of socialist government in a country where the majority are peasants and the petite bourgeoisie, 191 role of the participation in elections, 219 role of the struggle for democracy in late capitalism, 97 self-understanding of a new party in the end of 1918, 218 society as a cultural organism and totality, 150 strategy in the age of imperialism, 158 strategy in the November revolution, 215 strategy in the revolution, 190 study in Zurich, 7 tendency toward authoritarianism and imperialism inherent to late capitalism, 89 the impact of the Russian revolution of 1905, 111 the importance of her Polish background with regard to her understanding of Marxism and social democracy, 38 theory of accumulation, 145

250

INDEX

the role of a socialist government in a semideveloped country, the concept of dual power, 119 the role of leadership, 114 unity of socialism and democracy, 166 unity of the social-democratic party, 131 M Mandel, Ernest, 112 Manifesto of the Communist Party, 25 Mao Tse-tung, vii, 194 Marchlewski, Julian, 42 Martov, Julius, 187 Marxism, 18, 62, 65 and national question, 46 Marxism of the Second International, xi, 3, 69, 76 Marx, Karl, viii, ix, 25, 48, 68, 76, 131, 150, 206 theory of accumulation, 147 Maurer, Margarete, 236 Maximal programme and a minimal programme, 26 Mehring, Franz, vii, 34, 129, 153, 183, 213 Meyer, Ernst, 166 Michels, Robert, 115 Mies, Maria, 237 Militarism, 20 Millerand, Alexandre-Étienne, 82 Minimal programme, 26 Molkenbuhr, Hermann, 72 Molotova, Polina Z., 199 Mühsam, Erich, 137 Müller, Hermann, 72 Müntzer, Thomas, vii N Napoleon Bonaparte, 188, 206

Narihiko Ito, 237 Narodnaya Volja (Russian: People’s Will), 40 Narodniks, 39 Nationalism of the Great Russians, 55 National question revolutionary Realpolitik, 54 Nettl, Peter, 9, 16, 18, 38, 42, 114, 236 Neusüß, Christel, 150 New Economic Policy, 171 Noske, Gustav, 207, 212, 220 November revolution, 141, 203 O Obšˇcina, 39 Oelßner, Fred, 233 Oppenheimer, Franz, 231 Owen, Robert, vii P Pabst, Waldemar, 222 Papcke, Sven, 64 Paris Commune, 25, 81, 84 Park, Julius Francis, 148 parr¯esia, 16 Parti ouvrier français (POF), 26 Party programme classical formulation by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, 26 Parvus, Alexander, 62, 228 Peace movement, 10 Pedrosa, Mário, 237 Petit, Irène, 238 Pfannkuch, Wilhelm, 72 Piłsudski, Józef, 53 Pieck, Wilhelm, 211 Pilawski, Krzysztof, 4, 39 Pinkus, Theo, 238 Piper, Ernst, 45, 236 Planck, Max, 86

INDEX

Plekhanov, Georgi, 19, 39, 148 Polish nationalism, 55 Polish national question, 41, 61 and social democratic strategy, 48, 63 position of Rosa Luxemburg, 52 Polish Social Democracy, x, 40 Polish Socialist Party (PPS), 41, 45 Polish worker’s movement, 35 Polish working class, 50 Political group Proletariat, 40 Politt, Holger, 4, 39, 46, 234 Pozzoli, Claudio, 115, 228, 238 Programme of the French Workers’ Party from 1880, 28 Proletarian revolution, 26

R Radczun, Günter, 234 Radek, Karl, 114 Reformism, 64 Reichswehr, 205 Revisionism, 72 Revisionism debate, 64 Revolutionary leadership and self-empowerment of the masses, 177 Revolutionary Realpolitik, 19, 44, 54, 77, 147, 186 achievement of Marx, 72 vs. reformism, 64 Revolution of 1848, 25, 32, 65 Rohe, Mies van der, 227 Roland-Holst, Henriette, 6, 15, 232, 235 Rote Fahne, 205 Roux, Jacques, vii Rürup, Reinhard, 211 Russian Empire revolutionary strategies, 39 Russian occupied part of Poland, 38

251

Russian Revolution of 1905, xi, 12, 111 Russian Revolution of 1917, ix and the decades afterwards, 192

S Sandino, Augusto, vii Scharnhorst, Gerhard von, 206 Scharrer, Manfred, 212 Scheidemann, Philipp, 205 Scherer, Klaus-Jürgen, 67, 154 Schmidt, Giselher, 211, 236 Schmidt, Ingo, 237, 238 Schulz, Heinrich, 34, 129 Schütrumpf, Jörn, 166, 185, 212 Second International, 28 strategic orientations, 107 Seidemann, Maria, 38, 236 Shepardson, Donald E., 128, 236 Singer, Paul, 72 Social Democracy, 29 Social Democracy in Poland founding of two opposite parties, 38 Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland (SDKP), 45 Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL), 7 Socialism as free self-determination, 215 union of most ruthless revolutionary energy and broadest humanity, 3 Socialism of the 20th century, viii Socialism or barbarism, 214 Socialist participation in government, 81 Socialist politics in a bourgeois state, 94 Socialist revolution

252

INDEX

as a long process of victories and defeats, 76 Social Reform or Revolution?, 70 Society as a cultural organism, 150 Soden, Kristine von, 236 Soiland, Tove, 156 Solidarity, 12 Sozialistische Monatshefte, 40 Spartacus League, vii, 30, 140, 186, 207, 213 SPD, xi, 64 a counter-culture in the German Kaiserreich, 32 before 1914, the emergence of the left wing, 129 strategic recommendations of Engels, 29 SPD leadership during the November revolution, 203 Sprawa Robotnicza (The Workers’ Cause), 42 Stadler-Labhart, Verena, 38 Stalinism, 132 relation to Rosa Luxemburg, 227 Stalin, Joseph, vii, 197, 227 Sternberg, Fritz, 154 theory of accumulation based on Rosa Luxemburg, 231 Strategic discussion of the KPD 1918/19, 30 Strategy of the SPD from 1891, 65

The Mass Strike, The Political Party and the Trade Unions , 114 The Problem of Nationality and Autonomy, 54 Thermidor of the Russian Revolution, 194 The Russian Revolution, 166 The Socialisation of Society, 216 Thoma, Hans, 4 Thomas, Albert, 95 Totalitarian forms of capital accumulation, 20 Trade union, 64 Trotsky, Leon, vii, 118, 148, 167, 183, 188, 228, 239 Tucholsky, Kurt, 210 Tych, Feliks, 221, 234, 238

T Thälmann, Ernst, 132 The Accumulation of Capital: A Contribution to the Economic Theory of Imperialism, 153 The Industrial Development of Poland, 49

W Walcher, Jacob, 32 Walter, Franz, 231 Wang Xue-Dong, 238 Warski, Adolf, 42 Warynski, ´ Ludwik, 41 Weber, Hermann, 211

U Ulbricht, Walter, 132 Unity of Marxism and Socialism, 77 University of Zurich, 38 USPD, 140

V Vaillant, Edouard, 81 Vandervelde, Emile, 45 Violence socialist position toward violence, 99 Vollrath, Ernst, 115 von Vollmar, Georg, 95

INDEX

Weill, Claudie, 238 Weimar Republic, 31 Weiss, Peter, 2 Wengels, Robert, 72 Werlhof, Claudia von, 237 What Does the Spartacus League Want , 214 Wilhelmine era, 71 Winkler, Heinrich August, 212, 221 Wolf, Frieder Otto, 238 Wolf, Julius, 38

253

Women’s suffrage, 10 World War I search for a strategic response of the Left, 137 Z Zetkin, Clara, vii, 7, 32, 34, 138, 230 Zetkin, Kostja, 8, 11, 140, 154 Zietz, Luise, 72 Zinoviev, Grigory, 227 Zweig, Stefan, 71