The Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (RLS) bears the name of one of the great women of the 20th century. Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) was an outstanding representative of the European socialist movement. With all of her energy she struggled to prevent World War I, which then raged from 1914 to 1918. Along with Karl Liebknecht, she was the most important internationalist and anti-militarist representative in Germany’s labor movement. She was a passionate critic of capitalism, drawing strength for radical action from her critiques.
Rosa Luxemburg belonged to the disadvantaged, often persecuted minorities her entire life: She was Jewish—and she could not escape anti-Semitism even though she had no interest in religion; she was Polish—and as a Pole she was subjected to both German and Russian rule. But at the same time, her indomitable will led her to determine the course of her own life—contrary to the narrow conventions of her time.
Rosa Luxemburg was a scholar with a doctoral degree – at a time when few women went to college. She was one of the few women active in politics – at a time when discrimination against women in public life was widespread, extending well into the left-wing parties. Rosa Luxemburg did not live her life as someone else’s wife – a provocative attitude against the morality of her time.
Rosa Luxemburg was an exile. Despite her German citizenship, she was still Polish in the eyes of her political enemies. Rosa Luxemburg was a radical leftist – a crime punishable by death in her occupied Polish homeland and cause for constant persecution in her adopted home of Germany.
Rosa Luxemburg is a martyr of the German Revolution. On January 15, 1919, she was beaten to death by murderers in uniform—people who were part of the same crowd that would later openly support handing power over to the Nazis. Rosa Luxemburg’s fate is inseparably linked to the development of the labor movement, the fighting among its various tendencies, and ultimately its splintering. She was a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. In 1915, after the SPD supported German involvement in World War I, she and Karl Liebknecht co-founded the anti-war Spartakusbund (Spartacus League) which eventually became the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). She welcomed the Russian Revolution with hope but, as a revolutionary democrat, remained critical and alert: with great prescience, she critiqued the Bolsheviks’ dictatorial policies early on.
Rosa Luxemburg left and continues to leave no room for indifference. She lived out her convictions loudly and without compromise. With human warmth and an intoxicating temperament, she was able to win over many people who accepted her without prejudice. Those who did not see her as an equal, however, responded with fear.
Rosa Luxemburg’s intransigent struggle against war and capitalism and her radical insistence on linking political freedom with social equality have lost none of their resonance today.
The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation is indebted to this democratic socialist.
Important writings of Rosa Luxemburg in English:
The Militia and Militarism (1899)
Reform or Revolution (1900)
The National Question (1909)
The Accumulation of Capital (1913)
The Junius Pamphlet (1915)
The Russian Revolution (1918)
Jörn Schütrumpf: Rosa Luxemburg or: The Price of Freedom, Berlin 2008.