Rosa Luxemburg’s Living Legacy


I had the opportunity to visit Rojava in December of 2014, when the siege on Kobane was still under way.  The heroic resistance of the people there, their will to struggle in self-defence, in defence of their revolution, was of world-historical significance.  It rekindled a revolutionary flame, it awoke a long-slumbering revolutionary imagination.  Indeed, the Kurdish Freedom Movement, a movement never co-opted, never defeated, has kept the flame of world revolution alive.  Inspired by the philosophy and example of Abdullah Öcalan, chained to the rock of Imrali for twenty years now, whose contribution to revolutionary thought and praxis, whose critique of hierarchy in all its manifestations, whose persistent efforts to transcend the nationalist paradigm of liberation, whose powerful and persuasive re-articulation, redefinition, of self-determination as democracy against the state, whose democratic-confederal ideals and model, constitute an act of resistance and intellectual achievement of epic proportions, reminiscent of revolutionary heroes of a bygone era.

One of the vivid memories that I have from my all-too-brief visit to Rojava is an afternoon that our academic delegation spent at a woman’s academy.  On one of the walls at that academy there hung a portrait of Rosa Luxemburg, in fact, right next to PKK co-founder Sakine Cansiz.  The portrait was not out of place.  For Red Rosa is one of the great revolutionary martyrs, perhaps the most famous woman revolutionary of all times.  And like so many women in the Kurdish Freedom Movement, Red Rosa fought and died for a distinctly libertarian revolutionary ideal, for an ideal of world revolution that could only begin, that had to begin, with a revolution in consciousness.

What follows is an essay intended as a modest contribution to such a desperately-needed revolution in consciousness, an attempt to “wrest tradition away from conformism” (Benjamin), in commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of Luxemburg’s untimely death, an explication of the many ways in which her legacy endures.



On the 100th anniversary of Rosa Luxemburg’s murder, it is worth emphasising the ways in which her legacy remains very much alive.  In this – an apocalyptic – age, when we are forced to confront an ongoing, Orwellian war on terror, which has done much to provoke a resurgence of the far-right around the globe, when “national” and “transnational” governing institutions have been thoroughly co-opted by a plutocratic clique determined to plunder the globe, when the spectre of climate catastrophe begins to unfold, Luxemburg’s thought and her praxis, her principled articulation and embodiment of a distinctly anti-dogmatic, libertarian and thoroughgoing, internationalist version of Marxism, provides an invaluable intellectual resource, a source of inspiration, and she herself, a desperately-needed role model, for those of us still committed to the struggle against capitalism and Imperialism.

Red Rosa, the revolutionary martyr, the woman who first made famous the phrase “Socialism or Barbarism,” whose earthly fate – shot in the head, dumped in the Landwehr Canal – was certainly an early indicator of which of the two alternatives was destined to come out on top in the twentieth century, and indeed, may even have helped tip the balance against Socialism, in favour of Barbarism.  And yet, her ideals and her example, are more relevant now than ever, for us in the twenty-first century, in an age in which the complicity and defeat of social democracy have been rendered increasingly transparent, after the crimes of state communism even blurred the very distinction between “socialism” and “barbarism” in the eyes of so many.

Barbarism is, of course, a loaded term – one whose very use reflects and perpetuates a still deeply ingrained modernist prejudice, the binary pitting “civilisation” against “savagery,” a binary which long served, and continues to serve, to legitimate and justify imperial conquest, pillage and plunder. Though Luxemburg was certainly no apologist for Imperialism.  To the contrary, her acute analysis of the contradictions of capitalism was centrally concerned with the theory (and critique) of Imperialism. And indeed, her formulation is even subversive, insofar as she implies that socialism is civilisation’s last chance, that failure to overcome capitalism will mean nothing short of civilizational collapse.

So too did her formulation prove prophetic, insofar as she glimpsed, albeit for but a moment, from behind prison bars, beyond the bounds of her epistemic certainty, of her faith, in the inevitability of the victory of socialism.  The outbreak of the First World War had shaken her conviction to the core.

Strictly speaking, the possibility of civilizational collapse, of “common ruin,” did not lie beyond the parameters of the Marxist imaginary.  In point of fact, towards the very beginning of the Communist Manifesto, just after Marx and Engels declare the class struggle to be the hermeneutic key for unlocking the mysteries of all history, or at least the mysteries of all written history, the founding fathers of historical materialism go on to explicitly add that, across this long span of (written) history, the battle between oppressor and oppressed had “each time ended, either in a revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of contending classes.”[i]  Revolutionary re-constitution or common ruin as alternative outcomes, alternative possibilities, for the class struggle had thus been envisioned from the start, recognised in the movement’s founding document, revealed in its sacred text.  And indeed, Luxemburg attributes the formulation she rendered famous to none other than Engels himself.

And yet, if anything had characterised the Marxist mentality from its inception all the way up through the outbreak of the Great War, it was its steely confidence, the unflinching conviction, that the future belonged to socialism, that victory was inevitable, that the demise of capitalism was foreordained.  Not just in one country, but on a global scale.

The Great War changed things forever.  It was a calamity of unprecedented proportions, no doubt, though not one whose outbreak Luxemburg had failed to anticipate.  She sniffed out the SPD’s – and Kautsky’s – ever-increasing opportunism a lot sooner than others, and so could see right through her party’s appeals to “peace utopias,” could denounce her party’s creeping inclination to capitulate to the machinations and manoeuvres of the right, to militarism, to nationalism, and, ultimately, to war.  Indeed, as early as 1911, she had insisted that the only way to avoid the outcome of war was through the outbreak of revolution, and that therefore the party’s main priority and message should be “ruthlessly to scatter all illusions with regards to attempts made at peace on the part of the bourgeoisie.”[ii]

Even so, the onset of the war proved quite the shock to her system.  According to her comrade and first biographer, Paul Frölich: “The capitulation of German Social Democracy, its desertion to the imperialist camp, the resultant collapse of the International, indeed the seeming collapse of her whole world, shattered her spirit.  For a moment – probably the only time in her life – she was seized by despair.  But only for a moment!  She immediately pulled herself together, and by a sheer act of will, overcame her sudden sense of weakness.”[iii]

The workers of the world were destined to unite.  Why, then, had they so stubbornly insisted on clinging to their chains instead, even to the point of opting for meaningless and brutal death in the trenches?  Why had they been so easily seduced by all the lies and propaganda, by all the appeals to national glory?  Why could they not understand that the worker has no country?


Outside and Against the Nation

Contrary to what has too often been suggested, Luxemburg was no naïve optimist about the spontaneous inclination or propensity of the working class to overcome the blinders of the nation.  Not in the least.  Rather, her implacable hostility towards nationalism in all its manifestations was motivated by a deep-seated recognition of its powerful allure and therefore its destructive potential.  She was well aware, more aware than all the others, and rightly afraid, of its ideological efficacy when it comes to dividing and conquering workers.  She rightly realised the nation to be the main alternative, the most fundamental danger, the biggest obstacle to the elevation of class consciousness, to the cultivation of class loyalties, both within and beyond the confines of state boundaries.

Luxemburg was a triple outsider.  A woman, a Jew, a Pole; but at the same time, on intimate terms with the leaders of German Social Democracy, her charisma and intellectual acumen recognised by friend and foe alike from very early on.  Her solidly middle-class background and doctoral degree no doubt facilitated her ability to connect with the German party leaders, despite their differences.  So, perhaps more precisely, she was a triple outsider-insider, an immigrant at home among an inner circle of professional activists, bourgeois socialist agitators, leaders of an oppositional party that conjured and claimed to represent the working class.

This outsider-insider status no doubt helped render Luxemburg uniquely immune to the twin temptations of either espousing big nation chauvinism or embracing the dogma of self-determination.  Her positionality granted her an epistemic privilege, as social theorists would say today.  She could see through the nationalist blinders and illusions of both camps.  Outside the nation, she proved capable of seeing beyond it.  Indeed, as Whitehall has recently argued: “Her marginal status arguably shaped her empathy for community in its international orientation of borderless solidarity, propelled by and for the global proletariat.”  Moreover, recovering her perspective allows us to glimpse “the richness of the contests for self-determination before the ideal settled according to liberal priorities after the war.”[iv]

Luxemburg’s initial splash in the Second International came at a Congress held in London, in 1896, at the tender age of 25, when she eloquently and vehemently objected to a resolution in favour of Polish independence, arguing against “providing an effective cover for social patriotism’s total lack of any scientific basis,” against “raising it to the level of dogma.”  Her opposition to the prospect of Polish independence not only contradicted the position of the founding fathers of historical materialism; it would bring her into conflict with the leading lights of both German and Russian Socialism, with Kautsky, with Liebknecht the elder, with Plekhanov, with Lenin, on multiple occasions, over the years.  But it is an issue on which she would never waver; nor would her passion ever wane.  She would return to it again and again, to articulate and confirm ever anew her consistent and principled point of view.

As for her discrepancy with Marx and Engels on the subject, she brushed off all accusations of heresy or sacrilege with a counter-attack against dogmatic modes of thought.  As she would succinctly put the point in her 1915 Anti-Critique: “It has always been the privilege of the ‘epigones’ to take fertile hypotheses, turn them into rigid dogma, and be smugly satisfied, where a pioneering mind is filled with creative doubt.”[v]  Or, in a somewhat more direct and elaborate formulation, from a decade earlier, in a foreword she wrote for an anthology on “The Polish Question and the Socialist Movement,” where she patiently explained the difference between historical materialism as fluid method of analysis and point of departure versus historical materialism as rigid dogma and foregone conclusion:

“[T]he vital core, the quintessence, of the entire Marxist doctrine is the dialectical materialist method of social inquiry, a method for which no phenomena, or principles, are fixed and unchanging, for which there is no dogma, for which Mephistopheles’ comment, ‘reason turns to madness, kindness to torment’, stands as a motto over the affairs of human Society; and for which every historical ‘truth’ is subject to a perpetual and remorseless criticism by actual historical developments.”[vi]


She was no dogmatist; but she was no revisionist either.  She was first and foremost a revolutionary Marxist, committed to the overthrow of capitalism on a global scale.  Her revolutionary Marxism was firmly rooted in a liberationist but “orthodox” interpretation of the core of the historical materialist faith – an interpretation grounded in a conscientious commitment to the “ruthless criticism of everything existing.”  Along with a visceral rejection of opportunism.

Indeed, it is the visceral rejection of opportunism that unites her critique of nationalism with her critique of revisionism, and of its associated pathology, “parliamentary cretinism.”  As Nettl has explained, for Luxemburg the programme of national self-determination was but the first of her “many indices of opportunism which tied socialism to the chariot of the class enemy.”[vii]


Between Anarchism and Opportunism

From her debut on the German scene, Luxemburg cut her teeth and made her mark as a thorough-going critic of opportunism in both the theory and praxis of the SPD.  As Mattick has contended, of all the attacks on revisionism, hers were the most powerful.[viii]  In her famous polemic against Bernstein, she diagnosed his “opportunist theory” as “nothing else than an unconscious attempt to assure predominance to the petty bourgeois elements” that had infiltrated the party, attracted by its inexorable electoral advances, like bears to honey.[ix]  In this respect, her analysis anticipated and converged with Michels’ perceptive observations about the “iron law of oligarchy.”  But unlike Michels, she never turned against parliamentary politics tout court.

Luxemburg was eloquent and persuasive in her warnings against those who espoused “the method of legislative reform in place of and in contradistinction to the conquest of political power and social revolution.”  She insisted that such a manoeuvre does not mean merely opting for “a more tranquil, calmer and slower road to the same goal, but a different goal.”  The “realization of socialism” reduced to the more limited task of reforming capitalism.  From courageously “taking a stand for a new society,” the party is transformed into simply “taking a stand for a surface modification of the old society.”  Rather than seeking to eradicate the crisis-prone capitalist system underpinning and driving the perpetuation of oppressive social relations, the party comes to accommodate itself comfortably within the system, to lower the bar of its demands, to seek only to assuage the worst of the system’s abuses.[x]

In this sense, Luxemburg was the consummate “orthodox” Marxist, a revolutionary who remained true to Marx’s aspiration for human emancipation, conceived as fundamentally incompatible with life under capitalism, regardless of the level of one’s wages.  As Marx had insisted in his youth, when he was still more inclined to employ philosophical and moral modes of argumentation, better payment for the wage-slave would not and could not mean the same thing as the conquest of “human status and dignity” by the worker.[xi]  (Though, tellingly, Marx wrote for the worker, not by the worker).

For that matter, she also remained true to Marx’s (and Engel’s) early and unflinching belief that the struggle for representative democracy constitutes a first step in the struggle for socialism.  She argued, like Therborn would much later, that representative democratic institutions are themselves best understood as the product and reflection of the contradictions of capitalism, and that, inevitably, within the arena of “bourgeois parliamentarianism, class antagonism and class domination are not done away with, but are, on the contrary, displayed in the open.”[xii]

Access to, and operation within, the parliamentary arena proves “necessary and indispensable to the working class” nonetheless.  Necessary “because it creates the political forms, (autonomous administration, electoral rights, etc.) which will serve the proletariat as fulcrums in its task of transforming bourgeois society.”  Indispensable because “only through the exercise of its democratic rights, in the struggle for democracy, can the proletariat become aware of its class interests and its historic task.”  Whereas Bernstein and the revisionists conceived of parliamentary politics as an alternative route to socialism, an alternative to revolution, Luxemburg insisted instead that such an arena is valuable insofar as it paves the way for the revolutionary “conquest of power.”[xiii]  It does so both (1) by providing necessary political forms and (2) by facilitating the indispensable spread and promotion of revolutionary class consciousness.

Here her argument proved overly optimistic, at least as a prediction of the trajectory that awaited Social Democracy, in which the trend of opportunism among the leadership and the weight of national consciousness among the workers proved capable of fending off the spectre of revolutionary class consciousness among sufficiently broad swathes of the German working class.  And yet, as a set of guidelines for the proper aims, goals, and necessary limits of participation in the parliamentary arena, it remains nevertheless most instructive.


Revolution as Process

Make no mistake.  Luxemburg was by no means sanguine about the enormous effort that would be required, and the enormous difficulty of achieving victory, regardless of her confidence that the winds of history were blowing in a definite direction.  And not the one that Benjamin glimpsed a few decades later, after the outbreak of the second world war.  Indeed, in her polemic against Bernstein and the revisionists, she went to great lengths to charge them of precisely the sin of underestimating just how perilous and complicated “a transformation as formidable as the passage from capitalist society to socialist society” was bound to be, at least to the extent that they could be judged sincere, that they really believed the sand-castle of arguments they had so studiously constructed.

As Luxemburg points out, the revisionists suggest that socialism could be introduced through the passage of parliamentary legislation, “in one happy act,” so long as the party remains patient, so long as it doesn’t play its hand too early.  But this smooth and peaceful, legal route to socialist transformation envisioned by the revisionists is in fact “impossible to imagine.”  To the contrary, she cogently contends, “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 the first time, from the viewpoint of the final outcome of the struggle, it will necessarily come to power ‘too early’.”[xiv]

Luxemburg diagnosed and sought to explain opportunism as a fundamental obstacle to the victory of revolutionary struggle, as a pathological but historical phenomenon, through the lens of historical materialism, as related to the infiltration of a creeping petit-bourgeois mentality by the growth of the party and its corresponding bureaucratisation.  The arc of the party’s organizational trajectory thus: from a small group of professional revolutionaries to an ever-bigger bunch of reformist bureaucrats.

A trajectory which mirrored and corresponded with the growth of the state itself in Germany, and indeed, across much of Europe and North America, in the so-called “capitalist core,” from the third quarter of the nineteenth century, and that continued with an ever-more militarist bent with the onset of the age of Imperial scramble.  A subject about which Luxemburg would have much to say, most elaborately in her 1913 book The Accumulation of Capital.

Despite the clear trend towards creeping opportunism, imposed by increasing bureaucratisation, Luxemburg pinned her hopes on the potential for ever-more elements of the working class to wake up, to come to realise a revolutionary destiny.  A counter-trend she hoped could flourish as the contradictions of capitalism in the age of Imperialism inevitably sharpened, and crisis inevitably ensued.

She was well aware that “the forward march of the proletariat, on a world historic scale, to its final victory” would not be “so simple a thing.”  But forward it was bound to march.  Its revolutionary will was bound to be forged in struggle.  Indeed, it could only be formed “in opposition to the ruling classes,” in “a constant struggle against the existing order.”  A constant struggle capable of conjuring a collective will, “from outside the present society,” from the future perhaps, or at least, from “beyond the existing society.”  The movement for social democracy, its role conceived as helping the “broad popular masses” recognise “an aim reaching beyond the existing social order,” as coordinating, linking, uniting their “daily struggle with the great world transformation.”  In this process, the movement “must logically grope” between “two rocks: abandoning the mass character of the party or abandoning its final aim, falling into bourgeois reformism or sectarianism, anarchism or opportunism.”[xv]

The juxtaposition Luxemburg draws between anarchism and opportunism, her portrayal of them as two opposite and “extreme deviations,” two temptations to be avoided or surmounted, is noteworthy.[xvi]  It helps her situate her position, in Aristotelean fashion, as a golden mean of sorts.  Whereas the anarchists objected to any and all participation in the realm of parliamentary politics, on the one side, and the opportunists would reduce all politics to the parliamentary arena, on the other, Luxemburg advances a vision of tactics and strategy for the movement for social democracy that embraces parliamentary activity as a necessary but insufficient step in the process of forging revolutionary consciousness.  Electoral politics as an opportunity to evangelise, to spread the Good News of socialism among “the masses,” as a platform for consciousness-raising, for engaging in revolutionary pedagogy.  But never for playing the role of loyal opposition, much less for harbouring or nurturing illusions about an eventual transition to socialism via legislative reform.

As Mattick has succinctly summarised Luxemburg’s position in the long-standing, too-often oversimplified, too-often binary debate about revolution versus reform:

“[R]evolutionary Marxism, too, fights to improve the workers’ situation within capitalist society.  But in contrast to revisionism, it is interested far more in how the fight is conducted than in the immediate objectives.  To Marxism the matter of the moment in the trade-union and political struggle is the development of the subjective factors of the working class revolution, the promotion of revolutionary class consciousness.  The blunt statement of reform over against revolution is a false statement of the question; these oppositions must be given their proper place in the whole of the social process.  We must avoid losing sight of the final goals, the proletarian revolution, through the struggle for everyday demands.”[xvii]


Easier said than done.  But it is worth emphasizing that for Luxemburg, capitalism was doomed to collapse from its internal contradictions.  In the turbulence surrounding this collapse, there would be opportunities to make revolutionary leaps and bounds.  In the run-up to the collapse, the urgent mission was to promote the spread of revolutionary consciousness among the working masses, so that when the fatal moment arrived, they would be prepared to seize power for themselves.  The movement, its leaders, should focus their energy and resources on consciousness-raising for the self-empowerment of the working class.  Consciousness-raising in the process of fierce oppositional struggle.


The idea of political conflict as a process pervades Luxemburg’s thought, as James Scott has rightly stressed.[xviii]  Luxemburg spoke of revolution itself as necessarily a long and fraught struggle, a process bound to suffer serious setbacks, violent opposition, even defeat, only to emerge stronger anew.  The process of struggle itself, she expected, would provide the most valuable lessons, would contribute to raising and spreading revolutionary consciousness.  A learning process, and one which would be thoroughly dialectical, capable of erasing the very boundaries separating leaders from led.



What Is to Be Done?


Towards the end of her polemic against Bernstein and the revisionists, Luxemburg quotes Marx at length, from his essay on the 18th Brumaire, to sketch the learning process that a proletarian revolution entails.  First and foremost, ruthless criticism.  Indeed, proletarian revolutions must “criticise themselves constantly;” they must “constantly interrupt themselves in their own course;” they must, again and again, “come back to what seems to have been accomplished, in order to start anew;” they must assess and “scorn with cruel thoroughness the half-measures, weaknesses, and meanness of their first attempts.”  Not only that, just when they seem “to throw down their adversary,” they are bound to find they have only “enabled him to draw fresh strength from the earth and again to rise up against them in more gigantic stature.”  Even worse, they are bound “to constantly recoil in fear about the undefined monster magnitude of their own objects – until finally that situation is created which renders all retreat impossible and conditions themselves cry out: ‘Hic Rhodus, hic salta!’ (‘Here is the rose.  And here we must dance!’.”[xix]  Such is the torturous, the perilous, the winding path of proletarian revolution, as envisioned by Marx, and as Luxemburg reminds us.

Luxemburg’s deep-seated faith in the dialectical learning process of class conflict, class struggle, anticipates and converges quite closely with the conception and prescriptions of liberationist pedagogy so forcefully articulated by Paolo Freire many decades later.[xx]  Moreover, her profoundly democratic convictions led her into early and frequent clashes with authoritarian tendencies within the movement for social democracy.  Including, perhaps most prominently, with Lenin and the Bolsheviks.


One of the great advantages of Luxemburg’s liminal positionality was her intimate familiarity with the movements in both Germany and Russia.  She had grown up in Russian Poland, and had helped found the Social Democratic Party of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL).  The SDKPiL had been present at the 1903 Congress that led to the division in the Russian party between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, though the SDKPiL had left the Congress before the debate that provoked the split.  The SDKPiL was at the Congress to discuss unification with the Russian party, but tellingly, negotiations broke down over the issue of self-determination, the first of many conflicts between Luxemburg and Lenin on the matter.


It was in two texts written in the wake of the fateful split between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks at that Congress – the first One Step Forwards, Two Steps Back, followed by What Is to Be Done? – where Lenin elaborated his theory and justification for “democratic centralism.”  And in 1904, Luxemburg would reply with a blistering and prophetic critique of Lenin’s arguments, which cuts to the core, and locates quite precisely the spectre of tyranny lurking within the postulates and practices of the “democratic centralist” model.


Luxemburg has no problem with “centralism” per se.  She is not, like latter-day Bookchinites or the anarchists in her time, prone to fetishize the local as the primary or privileged scale for political action.  Her understanding of the dynamics and contradictions of capitalism in the age of Imperialism disabused her of any such naïve and/or antiquated notions.  Indeed, for Luxemburg – and on this crucial point she was in agreement with Lenin – in the age of Imperialism, capitalism is global in scope; and so the revolution must be global in scope as well, or bound inevitably to fail, bound to be crushed by Imperialist reaction.


In accordance with her historical materialist perspective, always attune to the expansionary imperative and dynamics of global capitalism, Luxemburg emphasises that the scope of economic centralization under capitalism explains the “strong tendency toward centralization … inherent in the social democratic movement.”[xxi]  She does not object in principle to such centralising tendencies insofar as they allow for effective coordination of the class struggle, both at the “national” level and beyond, in the politics of the Second International.  Nevertheless, she does object, quite vehemently, to what she considers Lenin’s “ultra-centralist” ideas about organizational structure.


Luxemburg accuses Lenin of pushing the agenda of centralisation in the party to an extreme, and argues that his impulse to hyper-centralise is both symptomatic of the immaturity of the social democratic movement in the Russian “backwaters” of global capitalism, and at the same time guilty of unconsciously mirroring a cult of hierarchy inherited from the Czarist autocracy against which the Bolsheviks were struggling.  A case of what Nietzsche diagnosed as trans-valuation, in which the original values of hegemonic social relations still shine through in the very terms of their prefigured negation.  Luxemburg pushes her point further by attacking the overly-mechanistic and overly-militaristic pedagogical premises and presuppositions built into the Leninist model.



The Bolsheviks as Control Freaks


To use a contemporary turn of phrase, Luxemburg considered Lenin a “control freak.”  She scoffed at what she considered his little-General complex, and rejected his reasons for institutionalising a quasi-military chain of command, insisting instead: “[e]xcept for the general principles of the struggle, there do not exist for social democracy detailed sets of tactics which a Central Committee can teach the party membership in the same way as troops are instructed in their training camps.”  According to Luxemburg, such a rigid and hierarchical chain of command contradicts fundamentally the urgent necessity of fostering reflexive and critical consciousness via truly revolutionary pedagogy, and propagates in its place the perpetuation of servility among party members, of propensities for “mechanical subordination and blind obedience … to the leading party center.”[xxii]


At the same time, by erecting an “airtight partition” and “rigorous separation” between party members and the broader mass of the working class, Lenin cuts the party off from fluid, more organic, less formalised and hierarchical social relations with the working class, and in effect, therefore treats the community as if it were but a headless body, somehow incapable of thinking, guiding, or deciding for itself.  Bolshevism as a “Blanquist” deviation in disguise, Luxemburg thus surmised.[xxiii]


Centralised coordination cannot be forced in such a fashion without it becoming conspiratorial and dictatorial.  Truly democratic coordination would require two conditions “not yet fully formed in Russia,” from Luxemburg’s perspective.  The first of these, indispensable, being “[t]he existence of a large contingent of workers educated in the political struggle;” the second, equally indispensable, “[t]he possibility for the workers to develop their own political activity through direct influence on public life, in a party press, and public congresses, etc.”[xxiv]  These conditions simply cannot be conjured into being by organisational fiat, as Lenin would appear to believe.  Such a short-cut is in fact a short-circuit, one that threatens to undermine a process of organic development of ever-expanding concentric circles of democratic social relations facilitating the emergence of democratic coordination, of democratic organizational forms.

Luxemburg goes on to emphasise again that Lenin’s “conception of socialist organization” is “quite mechanistic.”  She hones in on his conflation of two fundamentally contradictory forms of discipline, charging Lenin with an attempt to impose and “implant” within party ranks “the entire mechanism of the centralised bourgeois state” – the discipline of the factory, of the military, of the existing state bureaucracy.  A kind of discipline that is top-down, vertical in form, characterised by “the absence of thought and will in a body with a thousand automatically moving hands and legs.”  She contrasts this to the type of discipline required for the realisation of social democracy, one that is bottom-up, and horizontal in form, reflecting “the spontaneous coordination of the conscious, political acts of a body of men.”  The “regulated docility of an oppressed class,” on the one side, “the self-discipline and organization of a class struggling for its emancipation on the other.”[xxv]  There is nothing in common between these two forms of discipline, they could hardly be further from one another in ethos and praxis.

Self-discipline as the negation of discipline imposed from above.  An ethic of revolutionary discipline, linked to the practice of revolutionary pedagogy, through role models who strive for an ever-closer unity of revolutionary theory with personal ethics and praxis, as an alternative to Lenin’s “rigid schoolmaster approach.”  As Luxemburg so eloquently insists: “The self-discipline of the social democracy is not merely the replacement of the authority of the bourgeois rulers with the authority of a socialist central committee.”  To the contrary, the discipline of the revolutionary workers forged in struggle would have to be a new form of discipline altogether, a “freely-assumed self-discipline,” the alternative to and negation of the interpellated subjectivity of servility so famously analysed decades later by Foucault.[xxvi]

An alternative and negation, indeed: a form of discipline that emerges “not as a result of the discipline imposed upon it by the capitalist state,” as Lenin would assume, but rather, through a process of struggling against, of purging, that hegemonic form of vertical, unthinking discipline.”  Revolutionary struggle as a pedagogical and even collective-therapeutic process for the working class, in which its “old habits of obedience and servility” are “exptirpat[ed], to the last root.”[xxvii]

What this means in organisational terms, in relation to her dispute with the Bolshevik model, she would further expand upon a few years later, in the wake of the 1905 Russian revolution, in her brilliant and provocative analysis of the mass strike.  In that essay, she deftly applies the historical materialist method to confront dogmatic socialist opposition to this form and tactic, so associated with anarchism, effectively re-appraising its positive revolutionary potential in certain concrete contexts, such as that of Russia.  Her profound analysis of the revolutionary dynamics on display in Russia in 1905 leads her back again to broader programmatic conclusions, against the Bolsheviks’ obsession with ultra-centralist control.  Luxemburg contends that the experience of the mass strike in the 1905 revolution, the outbreak of which had caught Lenin and his party comrades completely off-guard, has demonstrated that “during the revolution it is extremely difficult for any directing organ of the proletarian movement to foresee and calculate which occasions and factors can lead to explosions and which cannot.”

This is precisely what Luxemburg had in mind when she referred to Lenin’s “mechanical, bureaucratic conception” of leadership, a point to which she returns, to articulate her objection anew.  Such a “rigid” conception, she insists, “cannot conceive of the struggle save as the product of organisation at a certain stage of its strength.”  By contrast, she concludes, “the living, dialectical explanation makes the organisation arise as a product of the struggle.”[xxviii]  Bureaucratic, top-down rigidity versus living and dialectical flow.

But to return to her 1904 essay focusing on “Organisational Questions of Social Democracy,” her conception of collective revolutionary will forged in struggle not only demonstrated sensitivity to later Foucaultian motifs about discipline and servility, but, in some ways like Butler’s work, managed to combined such motifs with explicit appeals to psycho-analytic categories, like the unconscious, and the ego, too.  In discussing the relation between struggle and consciousness, Luxemburg insists: “The unconscious comes before the conscious.  The logic of the historic process comes before the subjective logic of the human beings who participate in the historic process.”[xxix]


Luxemburg’s stress on the unconscious is linked to her understanding of freedom as a manifestation of humanity’s “creative spirit.”  She chastised Lenin’s “ultra-centralism” as imbued with and embodying “the sterile spirit of the overseer,” predisposed to stifle rather than nurture the “creative spirit” – with the consequence of “narrowing” rather than “developing” the movement, of “binding” rather than “unifying” it.[xxx]



Organisation and Opportunism


Which brings her again to the theme of opportunism, so central to her earlier essay on Reform or Revolution.  Lenin, like Luxemburg, was eager to denounce any and all manifestations of opportunism; but the Bolshevik leader acted as if the phenomenon could be avoided, magically fended off, merely by designing and abiding by the right organisational design.  To this extent, Luxemburg insists, Lenin is guilty of underestimating the opportunists – who know “only one principle: the absence of principle.”[xxxi]  Indeed, Luxemburg goes further still, to sketch an endogenous, “developmental” trajectory, in accordance with which the organisational preferences of opportunist elements change over time, across distinct phases.


At a first moment, “when the revolutionary elements among the workers still lack cohesion and the movement is groping its way,” like in Russia, “opportunist intellectuals” will tend to prefer “despotic centralism.”[xxxii]  The implicit accusation thus being that the Bolsheviks themselves were not merely misguided, but in fact infected with opportunism to the core.


Later on, in a different phase, “under a parliamentary regime and in connection with a strong labour party, the opportunist tendencies express themselves in an inclination towards ‘decentralization’.”  For a “young labor movement,” Luxemburg concludes, the surest way to “enslave” it to “an intellectual elite hungry for power” is to impose a “bureaucratic straightjacket,” likely to “immobilize the movement,” even convert it “into an automaton manipulated by a Central Committee.”[xxxiii]


In sum, the basic premise underlying Lenin’s justification for “unqualified centralism – the idea that the road of opportunism can be barred by means of clauses in a party constitution,” Luxemburg concludes, is “fundamentally false.”[xxxiv]  What’s worse, though “the attempt to exorcise opportunism by means of a scrap of paper,” by organizational fiat, simply cannot eradicate opportunism, it may definitely hinder the advance of the socialist movement.”[xxxv]


The fundamental tension, the “dialectical contradiction through which the socialist movement” must manoeuvre, is between the logic and imperatives imposed upon the working class by the need to survive in this existing society, on the one hand, and “its historic goal, located outside existing society,” on the other.  The immediate task, “the day-to-day struggle,” versus the equally urgent but nevertheless longer-term imperative of “social revolution.”  And thus, the twin dangers “constantly threatening” the movement, caught between the Scylla of “losing its mass character,” and the Charybdis of “abandoning its goal,” the spectre of “sinking back to the condition of a sect,” or simply “becoming a movement of bourgeois social reform.”[xxxvi]  This “dialectical contradiction” and dilemma helps explain the tremendous difficulties of uniting revolutionary theory with the realities of and problems associated with daily struggle and praxis.


We mentioned above that, in her account, Luxemburg makes use of the concept of the unconscious, or subconscious, though as Fromm has pointed out, she uses the concept more “in the sense of blindly acting historical forces,” and less in the sense of “subconscious psychic forces,” as Freud did.[xxxvii]  At the end of her essay on “Organizational Question of Social Democracy,” she again invokes a psycho-analytic category, that of the “ego.”  She sums up her assessment of the situation with a damning indictment and portrait of the psychological motives of the Bolshevik leaders, a blistering depiction of how they internalise and reflect the brutal context against which they are trying to struggle:


“Knocked to the ground, almost reduced to dust, by Russian absolutism, the ‘ego’ takes revenge by turning to revolutionary activity.  In the shape of a committee of conspirators, in the name of a non-existent Will of the People, it seats itself on a kind of throne and proclaims it is all-powerful.  But the ‘object’ proves to be stronger.  The knout is triumphant, for Czarist might seems to be the ‘legitimate’ expression of history.”[xxxviii]


As much as Lenin may try to act the part of the “nimble acrobat,” he nevertheless “fails to perceive that the only ‘subject’ which merits today the role of director is the collective ‘ego’ of the working class.”  In a word, he stands guilty of substituting his own ego for the collective ego, and thus usurps the voice of the working class.  But the working class, Luxemburg insists, “demands the right to make its own mistakes,” demands the right to learn for itself “in the dialectic of history.”  Such a learning process is indispensable and simply cannot be curtailed or head off at the pass by party leaders.  Indeed, as Luxemburg forcefully concludes, “the errors committed by a truly revolutionary movement are infinitely more fruitful than the infallibility of the cleverest Central Committee.”[xxxix]



“Self-Determination” as Utopia


Luxemburg followed the revolutionary events of 1905 in Russia very closely, seeking to learn from the dynamics and flow of pent-up social forces suddenly unleashed across the Tsarist Empire.  Her positive reassessment of the value of the tactic of the mass strike, long dismissed by the leading lights of social democracy, to which we briefly referred above, was one of the lessons she tried to transmit to the movement, to get the “collective ego” to recognize, to see for itself, to learn.  Another such lesson had to do with the issue of “self-determination.”  Her opposition to the principle had already brought her to loggerheads with the Bolsheviks, ever since the party’s inception, and in a series of articles she would pen between 1908 and 1909 on “The National Question,” she would again return to the point of dispute, to elaborate her position more thoroughly, to continue her polemic against Lenin, her convictions reinforced by the course of events in Russia.[xl]

A first line of argument Luxemburg would pursue against the espousal by the social democratic movement of an abstract “right of nations to self-determination” is that such an abstract policy in fact resolves nothing concretely.  Indeed, “[i]t gives no practical guidelines,” certainly not for the daily struggle of the working class; nor, for that matter, does it provide any “practical solution to nationality problems.”  Indeed, in terms of practical guidelines, Luxemburg insists, recognition of such a principle adds nothing the general duty to resist oppression in all its forms.  Such a duty, she continues, should not be conceived as “arising from any special right of nations,” just as “the striving for political and social equality of sexes” does not come “from any special rights of women,” either.  General opposition to oppression in all its forms, a firm stance against “every form of social inequality and social domination,” is the principled position required of the movement for social democracy; it is, after all, “the basic position of socialism.”  What can proclamations about “an unlimited authorization to all interested ‘nations’ to settle their national problems in any way they like” add to this general affirmation and point of principle against oppression?  The answer, Luxemburg concludes, is nothing at all.  In her words:

“The duty to resist all forms of national oppression does not include any explanation of what conditions and political forms the class-conscious proletariat in Russia at the present time should recommend as a solution for the nationality problems of Poland, Latvia, the Jews, etc., or what program it should present to match the various programs of the bourgeois, nationalist, and pseudo-socialist parties in the present class struggle. In a word, the formula, “the right of nations to self-determination,” is essentially not a political and problematic guideline in the nationality question, but only a means of avoiding that question.


In sum, for Luxemburg, the “fine-sounding formula of the right of nations to self-determination,” at the end of the day, amounts to little more than a “vague cliché.”  Either it expresses a truism, “an empty, noncommittal phrase,” or it expresses a blatant falsehood, an alleged “unconditional duty of socialists to support” any and all national aspirations, regardless of the concrete circumstances in which such aspirations arise.  But the historical materialist method must always resist, by definition, calls to ignore concrete circumstances, how particular movements are embedded in concrete constellations of material and social power relations.  Such matters require “historical and political discrimination,” and therefore need to be judged on a case-by-case basis, and even any one case can change over time.  In sum, rendering judgment on all such movements, abstractly, will definitely not suffice.

To add force to her argument against the abstract, and in favour of the concrete, Luxemburg next turns to compare the alleged “right of nations to self-determination” to another abstract rights claim, the so-called “right to work.”  In this case, Luxemburg praises the movement for social democracy for having rightly recognised that such rhetoric is but an “empty sound,” that until “the capitalist regime is abolished … the chronic unemployment of a certain part of the industrial proletariat” will be perpetuated, since it “is a necessary condition of production.”  As such, she remarks with approval, the movement is correct not to “demand a declaration of that imaginary ‘right’ on the basis of the existing system,” but instead “strives for the abolition of the system itself by the class struggle, regarding labor organizations, unemployment insurance, etc., only as temporary means of help.”  The rise of opportunist, revisionist tendencies and practices notwithstanding.

The next weapon in Luxemburg’s verbal arsenal against the “right of nations to self-determination” is the claim that such a right “is a complete utopia,” in a rather precise historical materialist sense: namely, that it cuts clearly against “the trend of historical development of contemporary societies.”  What does she mean by such a claim?  For starters, she emphasises the inescapability of ethnic and national heterogeneity, the intertwining and intermixing of nationalities in “all the ancient states without exception,” as a consequence of a “long history of political and ethnic upheavals.”

But even more importantly, Luxemburg goes on to insist, as well, that the brutal reality of imperialism, including “[t]he development of world powers, a characteristic feature” of the age, “from the very outset condemns all small nations to political impotence.” At least outside the metropole, or what has sometimes been referred to in more recent literature as the advanced capitalist core, “the independent existence of smaller and petty nations, is an illusion, and will become even more so.”

Capitalist imperialism further compounds the illusory nature of “self-determination” through the mechanism of “international trade,” which “brings with it the inevitable, though at times slow ruin of all the more primitive societies, destroys their historically existing means of ‘self-determination’,” thereby rendering “them dependent on the crushing wheel of capitalist development and world politics.”  From these definite tendencies Luxemburg infers that “colonialism will inevitably accompany the future progress of capitalism, and that only the innocuous bourgeois apostles of ‘peace’ can believe in the possibility of today’s states avoiding that path.”  A prescient glimpse of the gathering clouds and approaching storm of the First World War.  Though, at the same time, it is apparent from such claims that Luxemburg failed to anticipate the percolation of anti-colonialist consciousness in the decades after the so-called “Great War” (an oxymoron if ever there was one).

Even the most far-sighted of dialecticians proved incapable of seeing beyond the storm from paradise in this regard.  Luxemburg’s conclusion that “the form that best serves the interests of exploitation in the contemporary world is not the ‘national’ state, but a state bent on conquest,” was certainly accurate in the decades running up to the outbreak of world war.  But if there is one thing that distinguishes the global capitalist system – that Luxemburg, like Lenin, underestimated, no doubt, despite their vehement denunciations of opportunism – it is the system’s ability and agility in co-opting and transforming counter-currents and movements of opposition.  The Wilsonian embrace of the doctrine of self-determination, the convergence of the rising American capitalist project with the Bolshevik creed, the turbulent but successful transition from the era of Imperialism to the era of neo-colonialism, was something that Luxemburg could not, or at least did not, foresee.

Luxemburg continues her attack on “the formula of the right of nations to self-determination” with one last line of argument.  According to her, at the end of the day, such a formula is not only inadequate for being overly abstract and utopian, for “failing to take into account the wide range of historical conditions” and for failing to “reckon with the general current of the development of global conditions.”  At perhaps an even more fundamental level, she insists, the formula is inappropriate because “it ignores completely” the very core of the historical materialist method: namely, “the theory of social classes.”  Luxemburg contends:

“When we speak of the ‘right of nations to self-determination’, we are using the concept of the ‘nation’ as a homogeneous social and political entity. But actually, such a concept of the ‘nation’ is one of those categories of bourgeois ideology which Marxist theory submitted to a radical re-vision, showing how that misty veil, like the concepts of the ‘freedom of citizens’, ‘equality before the law’, etc., conceals in every case a definite historical content.”


To put the point bluntly, belief in the “nation,” conceived as “a homogeneous socio-political entity” is itself an illusion, a trap, a ploy.  “Under the identity of forms and slogans,” fundamentally contrasting, “diametrically opposed” political programs and worldviews are concealed, covered over, reified into an essentialist whole.  In a world torn asunder by the spread of capitalist social property relations, “there can be no talk of a collective and uniform [national] will.”  Ruthless criticism requires deep suspicion towards all such fictive universalities which most often serve merely to divide and conquer the exploited masses, and thereby to mask the particular interests of the ruling class.  Luxemburg thus continues:


“The ‘nation’ should have the ‘right’ to self-determination. But who is that ‘nation’ and who has the authority and the ‘right’ to speak for the ‘nation’ and express its will? How can we find out what the ‘nation’ actually wants? Does there exist even one political party which would not claim that it alone, among all others, truly expresses the will of the ‘nation’, whereas all other parties give only perverted and false expressions of the national will? All the bourgeois, liberal parties consider themselves the incarnation of the will of the people and claim the exclusive monopoly to represent the ‘nation’. But conservative and reactionary parties refer no less to the will and interests of the nation, and within certain limits, have no less of a right to do so. The Great French Revolution was indubitably an expression of the will of the French nation, but Napoleon, who juggled away the work of the Revolution in his coup of the 18th Brumaire, based his entire state reform on the principle of ‘la volonté generale’ [the general will].”


So much for the conflation between the nation and the “general will.”  But what about the relation between the nation and the will of the majority, at least?  On this point, Luxemburg appears more willing to concede: “[t]he nation wants what the majority of the people want.”  However, she immediately proceeds to admonish: “woe to the Social Democratic Party which would ever take that principle as its own yardstick: that would condemn to death Social Democracy itself as the revolutionary party.”  Its task must never be simply to pander to the will of the present majority.  To the contrary, “the historical mission of Social Democracy is based above all on revolutionizing and forming the will of the ‘nation’,” understood as the working-class majority.  Even to the point of getting the workers to reject any and all appeals to “national integration,” of persuading them to resist, to transcend, never to succumb or capitulate, nor to “humbly prostrate” themselves, before the warring idols of the nation.  Though prostrate themselves they would.



“Are we not touched with the same breath of air which was among that which came before?  Is there not an echo of those who have been silenced in the voices to which we lend our ears today?” – Benjamin, Thesis II.


Rosa Luxemburg was murdered exactly a century ago.  But her voice still echoes in our ears; indeed, it gets louder each day.  As the current crisis of capitalist civilization pursues its genocidal-cum-ecocidal course, its contradictions ever more exacerbated, with the social-democratic compromise ever more outflanked and defeated, and with the Marxist-Leninist state-communist alternative forever discredited, Luxemburg’s articulation and principled commitment to a distinctly libertarian and thoroughly internationalist brand of anti-capitalist resistance re-emerges as a source of insight and inspiration for those of us engaged in the struggle for humanity, for life on the planet, against tyranny in all its forms.


Her liminal position, as a triple outsider among the milieu of the leaders of German Social Democracy – as a woman, a Jew, a Pole – afforded her epistemic privilege when it came to the so-called “national question.”  She could see more clearly than perhaps any of her contemporaries the pitfalls of national consciousness in the European context of inter-Imperialist rivalry and looming world war.


Her internationalist critique of the dogma of national “self-determination” put her at odds with Lenin and the Bolsheviks, in fact, was the matter of multiple polemics between them, which would persist from her arrival on the international revolutionary scene up to her untimely death.  In the course of these often fierce polemics, Luxemburg forcefully depicted adherence to nationalist ideology as the first among many “indices of opportunism,” a Trojan horse for and harbinger of capitulation to the aspirations and agenda of the (petit) bourgeoisie.


Indeed, her critique of nationalism was part of a broader, multi-faceted critique of opportunism, which pit her against both Bolsheviks and reformists alike.  While her understanding of revolution as a process led her to embody and espouse a form of revolutionary pedagogy that pit her against anarchists, too, especially in relation to her distinctive articulation of the purpose of participation in parliamentary politics.


In sum, Luxemburg’s contribution to anti-capitalist thought and praxis remains relevant in at least four ways: (1) she elaborates an alternative, equally anti-capitalist and Marxist vision to Leninism, but one less susceptible to the autocratic inclinations of Lenin and the Bolsheviks; (2) she is equally vehement in her critique of revisionism, reformism and “parliamentary cretinism;” (3) she makes the case persuasively that the effective alternatives are “socialism or barbarism;” and (4) she expresses a powerful “revolutionary, internationalist” alternative to the perils and pitfalls of the “national imaginary.”   For all of these reasons, her thought and example remain extremely relevant for the urgent task of rethinking the critique of capitalism, especially in light of the failures of state socialism and the defeat of social democracy, in an era in which an alternative to capitalism seems necessary for the very survival of life on the planet.




Let me finish by returning to the portrait of Red Rosa hanging on that wall in the woman’s academy in the north of Syria, to emphasise both a Luxemburgian lesson for and a Luxemburgian lesson from the revolutionaries in Rojava. The Luxemburgian lesson for the Rojava revolution has to do with her critique of the dogma of self-determination, and in relation to her thoroughgoing internationalism. In a world of nation-states, to rescind the goal of achieving a nation-state of one’s own is not enough to make the dilemmas of socialism in one country disappear.  Direct democracy, local assemblies, and even the organization of militias for self-defence should not, cannot, be confused with the substantive achievement of liberation, of self-determination, not when you cannot control what crosses the borders, up against a brutal embargo, or what comes out of the ground, when the soil bleeds oil, or what falls from the sky, when iron maiden heavy metal death threatens to rain down on a territory.  And so, the revolution finds itself surrounded, forced to choose between collaborating with the United States or being pummelled by Turkey, or perhaps both.  For the revolution to survive, it must spread.


The Luxemburgian lesson from Rojava has to do with the question of revolutionary faith.  We in the so-called “West” no longer have faith that the future belongs to us.  The murderous century that separates us from Red Rosa renders it seemingly impossible for us to believe, like she still could, with her characteristically charismatic zeal, that “[i]t is we who are marching for the conquest of the world as he did formerly who proclaimed that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”[xli]  The brutality and ruthless determination of the counter-revolutionary forces, combined with the crimes of state communism, appear to have definitively crushed our capacity for such kind of certainty, such full-throttled conviction, that we are inevitably marching towards the abolition of capitalism.  The abolition of life on the planet seems more likely to us.

Our episteme would seem thoroughly disenchanted; if only we could face the future with the same steely confidence of Luxemburg, who, while still in prison, never ceased to anticipate a moment of messianic rupture: “I have the feeling that all this moral filth through which we are wading, this huge madhouse in which we live, may all of a sudden, between one day and the next, be transformed into its very opposite, as if by the stroke of a magician’s wand; may become something stupendously great and heroic, must inevitably be transformed …”[xlii] Where is our faith in the magician’s wand now?  Dumped in the Landwehr Canal?

Or perhaps, just perhaps, can we find that faith again, restored by the heroes fighting for survival, fighting for revolution, rekindling the flame of world revolution, in Kobane?  Red Rosa, and her revolutionary descendants in the Kurdish Freedom Movement, embody, exemplify, in their courageous will to struggle, a crucial message for humanity at the brink: the message that, come what may, resistance is life.


[i] In R. Tucker, The Marx-Engels Reader (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1978), p.474

[ii] “Peace Utopias” (1911), in M. Waters, ed., Rosa Luxemburg Speaks (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970), p.254.

[iii] P. Frölich, Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Work (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972), p.205.

[iv] D. Whitehall, “A Rival History of Self-Determination,” European Journal of International Law, Vol. 27, No. 3, p.726.

[v] Cited in E. Ettinger, Rosa Luxemburg: A Life (George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., 1987), p.184.

[vi] “Foreword to the Anthology: The Polish Question and the Socialist Movement” (1905),

[vii] J.P. Nettl, “Appendix: The National Question,” in Rosa Luxemburg, Vol. II (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966), p.845.

[viii] P. Mattick, “Luxemburg versus Lenin,” in Anti-Bolshevik Marxism (Monmouth, Wales: Merlin Press Ltd., 1978), p.21.

[ix] Ibid., p.37.

[x] “Reform or Revolution” (1898-1899), in M. Waters, ed., Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, op. cit., pp.77-78

[xi] “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts,” in R. Tucker, The Marx-Engels Reader, op. cit., p.80.

[xii] “Reform or Revolution” (1898-1899), in M. Waters, ed., Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, op. cit., p.80.  See also G. Therborn, “The Rule of Capital and the Rise of Democracy,” The New Left Review #103 (May-June, 1977).

[xiii] Ibid., pp.80-81.

[xiv] Ibid., p.82.

[xv] Ibid., pp.88-89.

[xvi] Ibid., p.89.

[xvii] P. Mattick, “Luxemburg versus Lenin,” op. cit., p.22.

[xviii] See J. Scott, “The Revolutionary Party: A Plan and a Diagnosis,” in Seeing Like a State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), pp. 147-179.

[xix] “Reform or Revolution” (1898-1899), in M. Waters, ed., Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, op. cit., p.89.

[xx] See P. Freire, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Continuum, 2010).

[xxi] “Organizational Question of Social Democracy” (1904), in M. Waters, Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, op. cit., p. 116.

[xxii] Ibid., p.118.

[xxiii] Ibid., p.117.

[xxiv] Ibid., p.119.

[xxv] Ibid., p.119.

[xxvi] See M Foucault, Discipline and Punish (New York: Vintage Books, 1995).

[xxvii] “Organizational Question of Social Democracy” (1904), in M. Waters, Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, op. cit., pp.119-120.

[xxviii] Cited in Mattick, “Luxemburg versus Lenin,” op. cit., p.44.

[xxix] “Organizational Question of Social Democracy” (1904), in M. Waters, Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, op. cit., p.121.

[xxx] Ibid., p.122.

[xxxi] Ibid., p.126.

[xxxii] Ibid., p.126.

[xxxiii] Ibid., pp.126-127.

[xxxiv] Ibid., p.127.

[xxxv] Ibid., p.128.

[xxxvi] Ibid., pp.128-129.

[xxxvii] See E. Fromm, “Marxism, Psychoanalysis and Reality” (1966).

[xxxviii] “Organizational Question of Social Democracy” (1904), in M. Waters, Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, op. cit., p.130.

[xxxix] Ibid., p.130.

[xl] See “The National Question” (1908-1909),

[xli] “On Socialism and the Churches,” in M. Waters, Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, op. cit., p.151.

[xlii] “Letter from Prison to Sonia Liebknecht,” in M. Waters, Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, op. cit., p.337.