Category Archives: Rosa Luxemburg

Rosa Luxemburg on Workers and Theoretical Discussion


“No coarser insult, no baser aspersion, can be thrown against the workers than the remark: ‘Theoretical controversies are only for academicians.’”

 — Rosa Luxemburg, “Reform or Revolution”

‘If You Do Not Follow the Order You Will Be Shot’ – New facts about the murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg


On the Eightieth Anniversary of the Martyrdom
of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg

Eighty years ago on 15th January, 1919 the leadership of the Communist Party of Germany, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, were brutally assassinated. It was a momentous loss for the German and international working class movement and it had widespread and long-term repercussions. The two leaders adhered to the revolutionary trend within the German Social-Democratic Party which had developed shortly after the turn of the century.

For the first time in Marxist literature Karl Liebknecht took up the question of militarism in the imperialist period in his book Militarism and Anti-Militarism which came out in 1907 and which led him to being sentenced to imprisonment. As a member of the Prussian Chamber of Deputies and the Reichstag he exposed the bosses of the military industries headed by Krupp for their warmongering policies and called for international proletarian solidarity as the decisive weapon in the struggle against militarism. Liebknecht welcomed the 1905 Revolution in Russia and came into a sharp political clash with the revisionists, defending the general mass strike as a special proletarian means of struggle. He denounced the assistance given by the German government to tsarism which was engaged in the suppression of the revolution and called upon the German proletariat to emulate the struggle of the Russian workers.

At the beginning of the First World War he did not initially break with the discipline of the Social-Democratic Party, voting for war credits on August 4th, 1914. Liebknecht soon corrected his position and on 2nd December, 1914 he cast the sole vote against war credits. In a statement which was submitted to the Chairman of the Reichstag he characterised the war as one of annexation. This document was later circulated as an illegal leaflet. Even when drafted to the front, Liebknecht skilfully utilised his membership of the Prussian and Reichstag Chambers to continue the struggle. He adopted the Bolshevik slogan of transforming the imperialist war into a civil war. Together with Rosa Luxemburg he established the Spartacus group. From the rostrum of the Prussian Chamber of Deputies he called upon the Berlin proletariat to join the Mayday demonstration of 1916. In the course of this Liebknecht called for the overthrow of the government which was conducting an imperialist war : for this action he was arrested and sentenced by a military court to jail for four years. It was there that he learnt the news of the October Revolution.

Rosa Luxemburg was born in Poland in 1871 and lived and worked in Germany from 1898. She was an early opponent of the revisionist E. Bernstein, actively opposing the ministerialism of Millerand and the opportunist compromises with bourgeois parties. Her writings on these questions were collected in 1899 in Social Reform or Revolution? With regard to the split in the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party Rosa Luxemburg did not accept the Leninist views on the need to construct a proletarian party. Stalin noted that Luxemburg had declared for the Mensheviks, arguing that the Bolsheviks had tendencies to Blanquism and ultra-centralism. During the Russian Revolution of 1905-07 she drew closer to the Bolsheviks on many questions of the strategy and tactics of the revolutionary struggle. Rosa Luxemburg correctly understood the role of the working class as the decisive force of the revolution, recognised the need for an armed uprising against tsarism and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Luxemburg expressed complete agreement with the Bolshevik view that the liberal bourgeoisie was a counter-revolutionary force and that the peasantry constituted a revolutionary class. Drawing on the experience of the 1905 revolution she supported the greatest possible development of the extra-parliamentary struggle of the masses and stressed the need to use the mass political strike. For her anti-militarist struggle she was imprisoned during the First World War.

In her major theoretical works on political economy Rosa Luxemburg presented a critique of capitalism and imperialism where the aggressive colonial policies were described; she upheld the view, however, that the accumulation of capital under capitalism was possible through the expansion of the sphere of exploitation of the non-capitalist sectors so that imperialism was defined as the struggle of the capitalist states for the non-capitalist environment. Despite her important theoretical contribution Rosa Luxemburg deviated from Marxism on a number of questions: to wit, on the denial of the right of national self-determination and an underestimation of the revolutionary potentialities of the peasantry.

From the beginning of the First World War she criticised the imperialist character of the war and the betrayal of the social-democratic leadership. As a founder and leader of the Spartacus League she authored a number of anti-war tracts. Luxemburg greeted the October revolution, commended the role of the Bolsheviks while incorrectly evaluating the Bolshevik tactics on the agrarian and national question, and the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly. Her critiques of Bolshevik tactics have been widely advertised by the spokesmen of U.S. imperialism notwithstanding the fact that she retraced her steps on a number of questions relating to the Bolshevik revolution and made a turn towards Leninism defending the dictatorship of the proletariat and the Soviets in Germany.

Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were among the founders of the Communist Party of Germany which held its constituent congress from 30th December, 1918 to January 1, 1919. After the suppression of the Berlin workers’ uprising of January 1919, the ruling classes organised the brutal killings of the two communists on 15th January 1919. The roots of the murders lay in the secret accommodation reached between the right-wing socialist leader Chancellor Friedrich Ebert and General Groener which was established in November, 1918 ‘in order to prevent the spread of terroristic Bolshevism in Germany’. Bourgeois and socialist organs competed to hunt down the two revolutionaries. The spy office of the Reichstag Regiment founded by the Social-Democratic Party set a bounty of 100,000 marks on the heads of Liebknecht and Luxemburg. On the 13th January, 1919 two days before the murders the Social-Democratic Party paper Vorwärts carried a poem calling for the assassination of the two communists.The last verse of this ended:

Many hundred corpses in a row—
Karl, Radek, Rosa and Co —
Not one of them is there, not one of them is there!

It was not without foundation that John Heartfield was to craft the photomontage entitled ‘Fraternal greetings of the SDP’ in which the deathhead of Karl Liebknecht was depicted below the masthead of the SDP paper Vorwärts which was shown dripping with blood.

After the liberation of Berlin by the heroic Red Army in 1945 a participant of the murders was arrested and interrogated. His testimony sheds light on the final hours of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.



Copy No.1

4 October 1945,
N.205 cc

From the Deputy Chairman of the Council of the People’s Commissars of the USSR,

To Comrade V.M. Molotov,

I am forwarding for you an intimation of the military prosecutor of the Berlin garrison about the arrest and testimony of a participant to the murder of Rosa Luxemburg.

K. Gorshenin

The Military Prosecutor of the Berlin Garrison

13 September 1945


To the Chief Military Prosecutor of the Red Army Lt. General of Law

Comrade N.P. Afanasiev,

On 13 June 1945 the Berlin operative group of the NKVD arrested a participant of the murder of Rosa Luxemberg — Otto Runge (living under the documents of Rudolf Wilhelm), born 1875, hailing from Gestebize (on Oder), by nationality a German and by (class — trans.) origin a peasant, educated up to 8th class, member of the NSDP since 1933, living in Berlin at 22 Greifen-Gagenerstrasse. Since 1941 was living in retirement on pension and was not working anywhere.

The investigations revealed the following:

Unter officer of a cavalry division Otto Runge, on the orders of the commander of his battalion, on the 13th of January 1919, was sent along with 15 other soldiers of his battalion to hotel Eden (Berlin, Nurembergenstrasse No.30) to guard the regiment’s headquarter.

On the 15th of January, Captain Pabst, an officer of the Staff of the regiment gave Runge the order to personally stand guard, along with soldier Drager, at the main entrance of hotel Eden from 18.00 hours (Berlin time) onwards. At 20.00 Runge and Drager were not replaced at the post and on orders of General Hofman, who at that time was present at the headquarters of the regiment, they were left to guard the headquarters for an unspecified period of time.

At 20.45 a car stopped at the main entrance of hotel Eden with four officers and Rosa Luxemburg. The latter was led by the officers into the regimental headquarters. Approximately 10 minutes later a second car also stopped at the main entrance with three officers and Karl Liebknecht, who was led by these officers into the regimental headquarters.

At this time, having come to know about the arrest of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, people started to gather near hotel Eden.

After K.Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg were led into the regimental Pflugk-Hartung headquarters, captain Pflugk-Hartung approached Runge and asked : did he know who the man and the woman in civilian clothes brought in just then were, and when Runge answered in the negative, Pflugk-Hartung told Runge that they were Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, that they were pernicious revolutionaries and bandits who wanted to overthrow the rulers and seize power for themselves. Pflugk-Hartung then ordered Runge that when K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg come out of the hotel he must shoot them. Runge supposedly refused to do so on the pretext that a large number of people had gathered and he might slip and hurt some one else too. Subsequently Pflugk-Hartung went inside the headquarters and captain Pabst came out and gave the order to kill K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg by hitting them with the butt of the rifle, which Runge agreed to do. After Pabst left, lieutenant Kanaris came out and told Runge that if he did not carry out the orders i.e. kill K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg he himself would be shot. Kanaris also went inside the headquarters.

When Runge and Drager were left alone at the post, the latter told Runge that if he (Runge — trans.) did not carry out the orders then Drager himself will kill K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg with his bayonet. To which Runge replied that ‘the order has been given and I will carry it out’.

After a few minutes the director (his name is not established) of the hotel walked out of the main entrance. He was on the right, in the middle was R. Luxemburg and to the left was lieutenant Vogel, who pushed R. Luxemburg out of the hotel directly towards the guard Runge. Runge was prepared for the murder and with the full swing of the hand struck Luxemburg with the butt of the rifle on the left side of her face and shoulder, under the impact of which the latter fell to the ground, but was still alive and attempted to stand up. At this moment 4 soldiers came out of the hotel, and along with lieutenant Vogel dragged R. Luxemburg into the same car in which she had been brought to the hotel. They themselves got into the car. Vogel took out a pistol and in that very place shot Luxemburg in the head. Her corpse was carried away.

Subsequently, the following persons walked out of the hotel: captain-lieutenant Pflugk-Hartung, his brother, captain Pflugk-Hartung, Oberlieutenant Rithin, oberlieutenant (illegible in the original document), lieutenant Shultz, lieutenant Liepmann soldier Friedrich and among them was K. Liebknecht who was taken away by them in a car parked on the other side of the road.

After a whole Lieutenant Krul came to Runge at the post and ordered him to go immediately to the 2nd floor of the hotel and kill Wilhelm Pieck, the Editor of the Communist newspaper ‘Rote-Fahne’.

Krul brought Runge to the 2nd floor, where Wilhelm Pieck was standing in the corridor, and told Runge to shoot Wilhelm Pieck if he made a move. They wanted to fake a killing while attempting to escape while under detention.

When Runge and Pieck were left alone in the corridor, the latter turned to Runge and said ‘soldier do not shoot me, I have something more to convey to your command’, after which Runge led Wilhelm Pieck to the room of captain Pabst. After a few minutes Pabst led Pieck out into the corridor and ordered Runge to accompany the latter to the commandant’s office. On the way, supposedly, Runge let Wilhelm Pieck go, and returned to the headquarters and reported to Lieutenant Hervitz, that he, Runge, fell ill and had let Pieck go, as he could not accompany him any further.

Approximately at 22.30 Lieutenant Vogel came to the headquarters and declared that they had dumped the corpse of R. Luxemburg into the river Spree.

The second car returned approximately at 23.00 with the officers who had taken away K.Liebknecht, and they said that they took the latter along the road towards the Zoological Park and faked a breakdown in the car. They stopped the car and got out of it. Then lieutenant Shultz took a pen-knife out of Liebknecht’s pocket, cut himself on the arm and then shot Karl Liebknecht, thereby trying to depict that Liebknecht was killed while attempting to escape during which he injured Shultz.

On 16th January Runge was summoned to the regimental headquarters where Captain Pabst gave Runge the order: stay, without leaving at the apartment of Lieutenant Liepmann till he received the necessary documents for departure.

After a gap of 8 days Lieutenants Kanaris and Liepmann gave Runge false documents in the name of Krankenwerter Dinwald and suggested to him to proceed to Fletsburg and also handed Runge a sum of 1000 Marks.

Runge lived in Fletsburg till 11th April 1919 and then two officers from the crime police came to him and asked Runge to come along with them to Berlin.

On the way to Berlin on the train, these officers of the crime police explained to Runge that he was being taken to the court in a case regarding the murder of K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg. He must deny his involvement in the killing, declaring that at the time he, Runge, was living in Fletsburg.

On reaching Berlin Runge was put in jail on 13th April, and on 8th May the legal process started and continued till 14th of May.

On 9th June 1945 during interrogation Otto Runge gave the following evidence:

‘During the time when I was in jail prior to the trial, advocate Grinsbach and judge Hentz came to my cell and gave me instructions as to how I should conduct myself during the trial. They told me to take all the blame on myself and not to involve any of the officers. I was supposed to declare that the killing of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht was carried out by me on my own initiative in a state of insanity’.

During the interrogation of 14.IX.1945 Otto Runge said:

‘After I answered the question put to me by judge Hentz that I had killed Rosa Luxemberg and Karl Liebknecht on my own initiative and in a state of insanity, no more questions were posed to me’.

And further:

‘In reality I was not insane, I was a normal person and was answerable for my acts as a person in full control of his mental abilities.

‘Before the trial I was thrice sent for medical examination and the legal medical consultants doctors Leipmann and Shtrasmon gave the report about my insanity’.

After the officers, who really were involved in the killing of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, when asked by the court replied that they had never issued any orders regarding the killing, indignant and angry shouts were heard in the courtroom from the general public to the effect that the officers were giving false testimony as they were the real perpetrators of the killing and Runge had served only as a tool in their hands. Judge Hentz stopped the trial and removed the public from the courtroom and the session continued in camera.

Runge was sentenced to 25 months in jail by this trial court and all the officers were acquitted.

While serving time in jail, some time in the month of November 1919, one colonel Apshtet, who was then told the whole truth by Runge about the killing of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, visited Runge. Colonel Apshtet made a written record of the interrogation of Runge and told the latter that this record would be placed before the Chairman of the Supreme Military Court for a second inquiry into the case for Runge’s acquittal.

On the 31st of January 1920 by a decision of the Supreme Military Court Runge was released and continued to stay at his home waiting for the second trial.

On the 5th of February 1920 Runge was visited at his home by 3 officers of the police and Heppert, the Head of the administration of the jails. The latter told Runge that new court proceedings were going to be initiated regarding the case of the killing of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, and Runge would appear in these proceedings as a witness and the officers involved in the killing as the accused. However, due to political compulsions Runge would have to be put in jail again. Heppert took away the certificate of release by the Supreme Court’ (Vishii Verkhovnii Sud — trans.) from Runge and he was taken to the jail by the policemen where he stayed till 24th March still waiting for the trial to begin.

In connection with the publication of an article in one of the journals by its editor, one Bornstein, regarding the wrong sentence passed by Judge Hentz in 1919 in the case regarding the killing of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, a new trial was initiated in which Runge appeared as a witness.

During the interrogation of 8th August of this year Otto Runge said:

‘About 8 days before the beginning of the trial of Judge Hentz I was approached by two persons who offered me 10,000 marks so that I would give the same evidence in this trial regarding the killing of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht as I gave in the earlier trial of 1919. These people did not mention their names but did mention that they had come on the personal request of Judge Hentz. I refused to accept their offer’.

During this interrogation Runge also said:

‘At the trial of Judge Hentz I told the entire truth, how the killing was really carried out and also about the attempt to kill Wilhelm Pieck’.

At the trial of Judge Hentz Wilhelm Pieck was also present as a witness.

For fraudulently passing the judgement in the case regarding the killing of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in 1919, Judge Hentz, supposedly, was dismissed from the post of the Chief Prosecutor of Germany after a trial in 1929.

It was not possible to investigate the matter of the killing of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in greater detail, despite my written directive, in view of the fact that no more witnesses or direct participants of the killing could be found, and Runge’s health sharply deteriorated in the second half of August. On 1st September Runge died due to deteriorating symptoms of old age (Runge was born in 1875).

Military Prosecutor of the Berlin garrison
Colonel of Law

Courtesy: ‘Vestnik’ No.1, 1995. Translated from the Russian by Tahir Asghar.


Epitaphs For Karl Liebknecht and
Rosa Luxemburg

Bertolt Brecht

Epitaph 1919

Red Rosa has also now disappeared
Where she lies is unknown
Because she told the truth to the poor
The rich have hunted her out of the world.

Epitaph for Karl Liebknecht

Here lies
Karl Liebknecht
The fighter against war
When he was struck down
Our city still continued to stand.

Epitaph for Rosa Luxemburg

Here lies buried
Rosa Luxemburg
A Jewess from Poland
Champion of the German workers Murdered on the orders of
The German oppressors. Oppressed;
Bury your differences!

Translated from the German by V.P. Sharma



In Memory of Karl Liebknecht, 1919-20, Käthe Kollwitz


Rosa Luxemburg on Socialism or Barbarism


“Today, we face the choice exactly as Friedrich Engels foresaw it a generation ago: either the triumph of imperialism and the collapse of all civilization as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration – a great cemetery. Or the victory of socialism, that means the conscious active struggle of the international proletariat against imperialism and its method of war. This is a dilemma of world history, an either/or; the scales are wavering before the decision of the class-conscious proletariat. The future of civilization and humanity depends on whether or not the proletariat resolves manfully to throw its revolutionary broadsword into the scales. In this war imperialism has won. Its bloody sword of genocide has brutally tilted the scale toward the abyss of misery. The only compensation for all the misery and all the shame would be if we learn from the war how the proletariat can seize mastery of its own destiny and escape the role of the lackey to the ruling classes.”

– Rosa Luxemburg, “The Junius Pamphlet”

Rosa Luxemburg on Revolutionaries Winning a Majority of the Population


“Thereby the Bolsheviks solved the famous problem of ‘winning a majority of the people,’ which problem has ever weighed on the German Social-Democracy like a nightmare. As bred-in-the-bone disciples of parliamentary cretinism, these German Social-Democrats have sought to apply to revolutions the home-made wisdom of the parliamentary nursery: in order to carry anything, you must first have a majority. The same, they say, applies to a revolution: first let’s become a ‘majority.’ The true dialectic of revolutions, however, stands this wisdom of parliamentary moles on its head: not through a majority, but through revolutionary tactics to a majority – that’s the way the road runs.”

– Rosa Luxemburg, The Russian Revolution, 1918

Communist League: The Influence Of Rosa Luxemburg on the CPG

Appendix to Revisionism In Germany: to 1922 by the Communist League; January 1977.

The dominant theoretical influence on the Communist Party of Germany in its early years was that of Polish-born Rosa Luxemburg, who moved to Germany in 1897:

“Rosa Luxemburg has left behind deep traces in the German and Polish Communist movement. One can say without exaggeration that for a considerable number of years.. both parties grew up under the influence of her ideas and guidance”.

(D. Manuilsky: “The Bolshevisation of the Parties;” in: “Communist International”, No. 10; 1925; p. 59).

“All the -new leaders fully subscribed, (to) the guiding lines of policy laid down by Rosa Luxemburg in the foundation document of the, CPG and subsequent policy statements in ‘Rote Fahe’. On nearly all subjects her word was law . . . . And even after the personal element of tribute had gradually died away,, her work was still the fount of all orthodoxy in Germany”.

(J.P. Nettl: “Rosa Luxemburg”, Volume 2; London; 1966; P. 787-8).

In her work “The Accumulation of Capital“, published in 1913, Rosa Luxemburg put forward the view that a capitalist society could solve the problem of capital accumulation only by expanding into pre-capitalist economies.. and that when these areas had been absorbed, capitalism would break down“:

“The day-to-day history of capital becomes a string of political and social disasters and convulsions, and under these conditions, punctuated by persistent economic catastrophes or crisis, accumulation can go on no longer . . . .
Capitalism . . . strives to become universal.. and, indeed,, on account of this, it must break down”.

(R. Luxemburg: “The Accumulation of Capital”; London; 1951; p. 467).

Lenin’s marginal notes to “The Accumlation of Capital”, are full of comments such as “False!” and “Nonsense!”, and he described her main thesis as a “fundamental error”. (V.I. Lenin: Notes on R. Luxemburg’s Book; “The Accumulation of Capital”, in: “Leniniski Sbornik”, Volume 22; Moscow; 1933; p.343-6).

In accordance with this thesis, Rosa Luxemburg saw no revolutionary potential in the peoples of the colonial-type countries and denied the possibility of genuine wars of national liberation under imperialism. In her pamphlet “The Crisis of German Social Democracy, written in 1915 under the pseudonym of “Junius” and published in 1916, she declares:

“In the present imperialistic milieu there can be no wars of national self-defence”.

(R. Luxemburg: “The Crisis of German Social-Democracy”; in: “Rosa Luxemburg Speaks”; New York; 1970; p. 305).

Commenting on her opposition to the Polish national-liberation movement, against the domination of tsarist Russia, Lenin said:

“In her anxiety not to ‘assist’ the nationalistic bourgeoisie of Poland, Rosa Luxemburg by her denial of the right of secession in the programme of the Russian Marxists, is, in fact assisting the Great Russian Black Hundreds (i.e., fascist-type organisations of the Russian landed aristocracy – Ed)”.

(V.I. Lenin: “On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”; in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 266).

After the socialist revolution in Russia in November 1917 Rosa Luxemburg condemned the national policy of the Bolsheviks as “counter-revolutionary”:

“The Bolsheviks are in part responsible for the fact that the military defeat was transformed into the collapse and a breakdown of Russia. Moreover, the Bolsheviks themselves have to a great extent, sharpened the objective difficulties of this situation by a slogan which they placed in the foreground of their policies: the so-called right of self-determination of peoples, or something which was really implicit in this slogan – the disintegration of Russia.
One after another, these ‘nations’ used the freshly-granted freedom to ally themselves with German imperialism against Revolution as its mortal enemy and, under German protection, to carry the banner of counter-revolution into Russia itself. . .
The Bolsheviks.. by their hollow nationalistic phraseology Concerning the ‘right of self-determination to the point of separation’ . . . . . . . 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. .
The Bolsheviks provided the ideology which masked this campaign of counter-revolution; they strengthened the position of the bourgeoisie and weakened that of the proletariat”.

(R. Luxemburg, “The Russian Revolution”, in: Rosa Luxemburg Speaks”.; New York; 1970; p. 378, 380, 382).

Similarly, Rosa Luxemburg failed to see, even in a country where the bourgeois-democratic revolution, had not been carried through, the revolutionary potential of the peasantry, regarding it as, in the long run, a reactionary force — a view which became a cornerstone of the Trotskyite theory of “permanent revolution“:

“Rosa Luxemburg declared that Lenin . . . overlooked the . . . fact that it (i.e., the peasantry Ed.) would certainly, and probably very soon.. go over again, into the camp of reaction”.

(P. Frohlich; “Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Work”; London; 1940; p. 113).

On the basis of this view, after the socialist revolution in Russia in November 1917 she condemned the Bolshevik policy of redistributing the land among the peasantry as “counter-revolutionary“:

“The slogan launched by the Bolsheviks, immediate seizure and distribution of the land by the peasants. .. piles up insurmountable obstacles to the socialist transformation of agrarian relations . . . .
Now after the ‘seizure’ . . . . . there is an enormous, newly developed and powerful mass of owning peasants who will defend their newly won property with tooth and nail against every socialist attack of the future socialisation of agrarian economy. . . . has now become a question of opposition and struggle between the urban proletariat and the mass of the peasantry. . . .
Now that the Russian peasant has seized the land with his own fist, he does not even dream of ‘defending Russia and the revolution to which he owes the land.
The Leninist agrarian reform has created a new and powerful layer of popular enemies of socialism in the countryside, enemies whose resistance will be much more dangerous and stubborn than that of the noble large landowners”.

(R.Luxemburg: “The Russian Revolution in: “Rosa Luxemburg Speaks”; New York; 1970; p. 376, 377, 378).

Rosa Luxemburg saw the mass strike with economic aims as the decisive form of the revolutionary struggle of the working class:

“The mass strike is merely the form of the revolutionary struggle. . . . Strike action is the living pulse-beat of the revolution and at the same time its most powerful driving wheel. The mass strike. . . is . . . the method of motion of the proletarian mass, the phenomenal form of the proletarian struggle, in the revolution. . . . In this general picture the purely political demonstration strike plays quite a subordinate role. . . The demonstration strikes which, in contradistinction to the fighting strikes, exhibit the greatest mass of party discipline, conscious direction and political thought, and therefore must appear as the highest and most mature form of the mass strike, play in reality the greatest part.. in. the beginnings of the movement. . . .
The pedantic representation in which the pure political mass strike is logically derived from the strike as the ripest and highest stage. . . is shown to be absolutely false . . . .
The movement on the whole does not proceed from the . . .. economic to the political struggle. . . Every great political mass action, after it has attained its political highest point, breaks up into a mass of economic strikes. And that applies not only to each of the great mass strikes, but also to the revolution as a whole”.

(R.Luxemburg: “The Mass Strike and the Trade Unions”, in: “Rosa Luxemburg Speaks”; New York; 1970; p. 182, 183, 184, 185).

But the economic strike, which to Rosa Luxemburg, was the decisive form of the revolutionary struggle of the working class, is predominantly spontaneous in character:

“The mass strike cannot be called at will, even when the decision to do so may come from the highest committee of the strongest social-democratic party. . . . .
The element of spontaneity plays a great part in all Russian mass strikes without exception. .
The element of spontaneity plays such a predominant part because revolutions do not allow anyone to play the schoolmaster with them”.

(R. Luxemburg: ibid, p. 187, 188).

On the basis of the view of the predominantly spontaneous character of “the decisive form of the revolutionary struggle of the working class, Rosa Luxemburg opposed as “dangerous” and “Blanquist” Lenin’s concept of the necessity for a disciplined vanguard party based on firm democratic centralism. In her article “Organisational Questions of Social Democracy“, first published in 1904 as a review of Lenin’s “What Is to be Done?” she writes:

“Lenin’s centralism . . . is a mechanical transposition of the organisational principles of Blanquism into the mass movement of the socialist working class . . . His conception of socialist organisation is quite mechanistic.. . . The tendency is for the directing organs of the socialist party to play a conservative role.. . . Granting, as.. Lenin wants, such, absolute powers of a negative character to the top organ of the party, we strengthen, to a dangerous extent, the conservatism inherent in such an organ. . . The ultra-centralism asked by Lenin is full of the sterile spirit of the overseer. It is not a positive and creative spirit. Lenin’s concern is not so much to make the activity of the party more fruitful as to control the party — to narrow the movement rather than to develop it, to bind rather than to unify it. In the present situation such an experiment would be doubly dangerous to Russian social democracy. . . We can conceive of no greater danger to the Russian party than, Lenin’s plan of organisation. Nothing will more surely enslave a young labour movement to an intellectual elite hungry for power than this bureaucratic straitjacket, which will immobilise the movement and turn it into an automaton manipulated by a Central Committee“.

(R. Luxemburg: “Organisational Questions of Social Democracy”, in: Rosa Luxemburg Speaks-“; New York; 1970; p. 118, 119, 121, 122., 126-7).

Rosa Luxemburg shared with Leon Trotsky anti-Leninist views not only on the question of the role of the peasantry and on the question of the organisation of the party of the working class, but also on the question of the possibility of building socialism in a single country:

“Of course, even with the. greatest heroism the proletariat of one single country cannot loosen this noose”.

(R. Luxemburg: “The Old Mole”, in: ‘Selected Political Writings”; London; 1972; p. 227).

“The awkward position that the Bolsheviks are in today, however, is together with most of their mistakes, a consequence of the basic insolubility of the problem posed to them by the international, above all the German, proletariat. To carry out the dictatorship of the proletariat and the socialist revolution in a single country surrounded by reactionary imperialist rule and in the fury of the bloodiest world war in human history — that is squaring the circle. Any socialisst , party would have to fail in this task and perish.”

(R. Luxemburg: “The Russian. Tragedy”, in’: Ibid.; p.241-2).

And like Trotsky, she strived during the years before the First World War to bring about a reunification of the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks i.e., to obliterate the dividing line between Marxism-Leninism and’ revisionism:

“The other plan was proposed by Rosa Luxemburg. . . . according to that plan. . a ‘unity conference’ (Einingungskenferenz) was proposed “in order to restore a united party”. . . . This last plan . . . . was only an attempt on the part of Rosa Luxemburg to smuggle in the ‘restoration’ of the sadly notorious ‘Tyszko circle’ (‘Tyszko’ was the pseudonym of Leo Jogiches — Ed.)

(V.I. Lenin: “A Good Resolution And a Bad Speech”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London’; 1943; p. 209).

Holding these views, Rosa Luxemburg could not but be hostile to the Soviet regime established in Russia under the leadership of the Bolsheviks in November 1917.

“Freedom of the press, the rights of association and assembly … have been outlawed for all opponents of the Soviet regime. . . . Without a free and untrammeled press, without the unlimited right of association and assemblages the rule of the broad mass of the people is entirely unthinkable…. Freedom only for the supporters of the government . . . .is no freedom at all. . . .
Lenin 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. It is rule by terror which demoralises. . . .
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 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 . . . .
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. . . . Such conditions must inevitably cause a brutalisation of public life.”

(R.Luxemburg: “The Russian Revolution”, in: “Rosa Luxemburg Speaks”; New York; 1970; p. 389, 391).

Following Stalin‘s statement that many of the serious political mistakes committed by the Communist Party of Germany were the result of Social-Democratic survivals which must be eliminated (September 1924), the “Theses on the Bolshevisation of the Parties of the Comintern“, adopted by the Fifth Plenum of the ECCI March/April 1925, drew special attention to the harmfulness of Luxemburgism:

“The genuine assimilation of Leninism and its practical application in the construction of Communist parties throughout the world is impossible without taking into consideration the errors of very prominent Marxists who strove to apply Marxism to the conditions of a new epoch, without being wholly, successful in so doing.
Among these errors must be included those of Rose Luxemburg. The nearer these political leaders are to Leninism, the more dangerous are those of their views which, being erroneous, do not coincide with Leninism”.

(Theses on the Bolshevisation of the Parties, of the Comintern, 5th. Plenum ECCI, in: “International Press Correspondence”; Volume 5, No. 47; June 4th., 1925; p.616).

The theses described the most important errors of Luxemburgism as follows:

“a). The non-Bolshevik method of presenting the question of ‘spontaneity’, ‘consciousness’, ‘organisation’, and the ‘mass’ . . which frequently hampered the revolutionary development of the class struggle, prevented proper understanding of the role of the Party in the revolution;
b) the under-estimation of the technical side of preparing for revolt hampered, and in some cases even now hamper, the proper presentation of the question of ‘organising’ revolution’;
c) the error in the question of the attitude towards the peasantry;
d) equally serious were the errors committed by Rosa Luxemburg in the national question. The repudiation of the slogan of self-determination, (to support the formation of independent states) on the ground that under imperialism it is ‘impossible’ to solve the national question, led in fact to a sort of nihilism on the national question which extremely hampered Communist work in a number of countries;
e) The propagation of the party-political character of trade unions. . . was a great mistake which evidenced the failure to understand the role of the trade unions as organs embracing all the workers. This mistake seriously hampered, and still hampers, the proper approach of the vanguard to the working class as a whole;
f) while paying just tribute to the greatness of Rosa Luxemburg, one of the founders of the Communist International, the Comintern believes that it will be acting in the spirit of Rosa Luxemburg herself if it will now help the Parties of the Comintern to draw the lessons from the errors made by this great revolutionary.
Without overcoming the errors of Luxemburgism, genuine Bolshevisation is impossible”.

(Ibid.; p.616).

In November 1931, Stalin’s letter to the journal “Proletarian Revolution” was published, under the title of “Some Questions concerning the History of Bolshevism”. This reiterated in stronger terms the criticism made of the theory and practice of Luxemburgism:

“Organisational and ideological weakness was a characteristic feature of the Left Social-Democrats not only in the period prior to the war. As is well known, the Lefts retained this negative feature in the post-war period as well. Everyone knows the appraisal of the German Left Social-Democrats given by Lenin in his famous article ‘On Junius’s (i.e., Rosa Luxemburg’s –Ed.) Pamphlet’, written in October 1916, in which Lenin, criticising a number of very serious political mistakes committed by the Left Social-Democrats in Germany, speaks of ‘the weakness of ALL German Lefts, who are entangled on all sides in the vile net of Kautskyan hypocrisy, pedantry, ‘friendship’ for the opportunists; in which he says that ‘Junius has not yet yet freed herself completely from the ‘environment’ of the German, even Left Social-Democrats, who are afraid of a split, are afraid to express revolutionary slogans to the full’. . . The Lefts in Germany. . . time and again wavered between Bolshevism and Menshevism. . . .
In 1903 . . . . the Left Social-Democrats in Germany, Parvus and Rosa Luxemburg, came out against the Bolsheviks. They accused the Bolsheviks of ultra-centralist and Blanquist tendencies. Subsequently, these vulgar and philistine epithets were caught up by the Mensheviks and spread far and wide. In 1905. . . . Parvus and Rosa Luxemburg . . . invented the utopian and semi-Menshevik scheme of permanent revolution (a distorted representation of the Marxian scheme of revolution) which was permeated through and through with the Menshevik repudiation of the policy of alliance between the working class and the peasantry, and opposed this scheme to the Bolshevik scheme of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. Subsequently, this semi-Menshevik scheme of permanent revolution was caught up by Trotsky and transformed into a weapon of struggle against Leninism. The Left Social-Democrats in the West developed the semi-Menshevik theory of imperialism, rejected the principle of self-determination of nations in its Marxian sense (including secession and formation of independent states), rejected the theses that the liberation movement in the colonies and oppressed was of great revolutionary importance, rejected the theses that a united front between the proletarian revolution and the movement for national emancipation was possible, and opposed this semi-Menshevik hodge-podge, which was nothing but an underestimation of the national and colonial question, to the Marxian scheme of the Bolsheviks. It is well known that this semi-Menshevik hodge-podge was subsequently caught up by Trotsky who used it as a weapon in the struggle against Leninism. Such were the universally known mistakes committed by the Left Social-Democrats in Germany.
I need not speak . . . . of the mistakes they committed in appraising the policy of the Bolsheviks in the period of the October Revolution. . . .
Of course. . . they also have great and important revolutionary deeds to their credit. . . .
But this does not cannot remove the fact that the Left Social-Democrats in Germany did commit a number of very serious political and theoretical mistakes; that they had not yet rid themselves of their Menshevik burden”.

(J.V. Stalin: ”Some Questions concerning the History of Bolshevism”, in: “Leninism”; London; 1924; p. 390, 391-2, 393-4).

The letter was attacked immediately by the open revisionists, such as Leon Trotsky:

“There is included in it a vile and bare-faced calumny about Rosa Luxemburg. This great revolutionist is ‘enrolled by Stalin into the camp of centrism! . . . Stalin should proceed with caution before expending his vicious mediocrity when the matter touches figures of such stature as Rosa Luxemburg”.

(L. Trotsky: “Hands off Rosa Luxemburg”, in: R. Luxemburg: “Rosa Luxemburg. Speaks”, New York; 1970; p. 441, 446).

When the concealed revisionists threw off their mask in 1956, they too strongly denounced Stalin’s Letter:

“Through it, sectarian views., especially on Social-Democracy and its left wing, were fostered in the CPG”.

(“‘Geschichte der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung: Chronik”, Volume 2; Berlin; 1966; p. 278)

Trotsky, in the article mentioned above, was also indignant that in his letter Stalin had “credited” Rosa Luxemburg and Parvus (i.e., Alexander Helphand) with having invented the theory of “permanent revolution”, and pointed out that in “On the Problems of Leninism”, published in 1926, Stalin had “credited” Parvus and Trotsky with having first put the theory forward. Stalin clarified his position in January 1932:

“It was not Trotsky but Rosa Luxemburg and Parvus who invented the theory of ‘permanent’ revolution. It was not Rosa Luxemburg but Parvus and Trotsky who in 1905 advanced the theory of ‘permanent’ revolution and actively fought for it against Lenin. Subsequently Rosa Luxemburg, too, began to fight actively against the Leninist plan of revolution. But that was after 1905″.

(J.V. Stalin: Reply to Olekhnovich and Aristov, in: “Works”, Volume 13; Moscow; 1955; p.133, 134)

On January 8th., 1932, the organ of the. Communist Party of Germany “Rote Fahne” carried an article endorsing Stalin’s letter and declaring that the influence of Luxemburgism had been “the greatest obstacle” to the development of a Marxist-Leninist Party in Germany:

“The Communist Party of Germany welcomes Comrade Stalin’s letter as a document which calls upon the German Communists to wage a fierce struggle against all social-democratic influences within the revolutionary movement, against the remnants of Centrism and Luxemburgism within the Party. . . . The failure on the part of the German Left Radicals in regard to the question of a complete break with opportunism and Centrism had an adverse effect upon the whole course of the Spartacus League during the war. Its after-effects were to be seen in the vacillations and the actions of the various liquidatory and oppositionist tendencies in the CP of Germany and rendered difficult a clear fulfilment of the role of the Party. Thus this failure of the German Lefts became the greatest obstacle to the development and victory of the revolutionary movement of the German proletariat”.

(“Comrade Stalin’s Letter and the CP of Germany”, in: “International Press Correspondence”, Volume 12, No, 4; January 28th., 1932; p. 73).

An article written by Fritz Heckert and published later in January 1932 to commemorate the anniversary of Rosa Luxemburg’s murder, followed the same lines:

“Under the ideological leadership of Rosa Luxemburg there arose the fundamentally false idea regarding the nature of imperialism, which led to the theory of the mechanical collapse of capitalism. From this again there followed the theory of the spontaneity of the masses, who would wrest themselves from the errors and crimes of the social-democratic leaders in order to rally round the revolutionary leadership. This also was the reason why no steps were taken to found an independent revolutionary party. It was not recognised that the party can be only the advance-guard of the proletariat, its most progressive, energetic and clearest part. These false ideas are connected with other errors of equally great importance.. such as the failure to recognise the role of revolutionary violence and the errors regarding the national and the peasant questions.
It is thanks to the after-effects of the social-democratic trends in the Communist Party of Germany that such big mistakes were committed in 1921 in the March action and in 1923 in the October movement,, and that the Party was long prevented from developing into a real Bolshevist Party owing to the actions of a large number of renegades in its ranks. The eradication of all false ideas is indispensably necessary necessary for every Bolshevik Party. Only recently.. Comrade Stalin again urgently called attention to this . . . .
It would be a profanation of the two great Dead if we sought to vie with the renegades in conserving their errors”.

(F. Heckert: “January 15, 1919”, in: “International Press Correspondence”, Volume 12, No. 2; January 14th., 1932; p. 29).