working class hero is something to be.
John Lennon, “A Working Class Hero”
situation to state it briefly is this: The [SPD] Executive
and the General Commission [of the Trade Unions] have
already considered the mass strike, and after lengthy
negotiations it was defeated by the resistance of the
General Commission…The masses themselves ought to decide,
but it is our duty to present the pros and cons, the
general line of argument. I therefore am counting on
you to give your support here [in this matter] and to
run the articles without delay.
Rosa Luxemburg, “Letter to Konrad Haenisch,” [Friedenau,
before March 14, 1910], The
Letters of Rosa Luxemburg,
it came to class struggle, Rosa Luxemburg was uncompromising.
She did not use her position within the German Social
Democratic Party (SPD) for social or material advancement.
She was no opportunist seeking political inclusion in
the German government as was the case with several key
leaders of the SPD. Luxemburg was Luxemburg - no pantsuits
or a seat on the right (or Left) hand side of State power.
critiques examining the motives of contemporary socialists
(Marxist) was for her part of being an engaged citizen
(let alone activist) as opposed to a robot with the mentality
of the Freikorp soldiers who followed orders, arrested
and eventually shot her dead in January, 1919.
the “fateful question” of the First World War arose in
which Luxemburg witnessed Germany socialism
and international socialism undergoing a crisis of commitment
to the principles of Marxism (“Letter to Karl Moor, [Sudende],
October 12, 1914,” The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg,
2011).  Luxemburg warned of the SPD’s turn away from the class struggle.
The workers, suffering, are agitated and they want to
see change by their own actions - en-mass.
Where is the SPD?
Where, echoes Rosa Luxemburg, is the SPD?
Luxemburg’s article titled, “Theory and Practice,” (The
Rosa Luxemburg Reader,
2004),  is an honest and uncompromising critical response to SPD leader
Karl Kautky’s rejection of Luxemburg’s article “What’s
Next?” in which the activist and thinker calls on the
party to open discussions on the possibility of including
a demand for a republic in Germany and her call to support
a mass strike.
Kautsky  has made a notable blunder on the question of calling for a
republic. That passage [in Luxemburg’s article ‘What
Next?’] about a republic, which he did not want taken
up, has nevertheless appeared as a separate article,
titled ‘Zeit der Aussaat’ (Time for the Sowing of Seeds)
in the Breslau and Dortmund papers, and perhaps a dozen others! And
now K[ausky] reproaches me with the claim that I myself
‘had renounced’ it!... (“Letter to Konrad Haenisch,
[Friedenau,] June 18, 1910, The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg,
resounding nein to any discussion of a republic
or a mass strike was read in Neue Zeit’s June12-14,
1910 publication of his article, “A New Strategy.” Editor
of the party’s press which included Vorworts as
well as the Neue Zeit though he may be, Luxemburg
surmised, the “veto” would not have been Kautsky’s alone
but also represented the opinion of the “high command”
(“Theory and Practice”). But it is Kautsky who
delivers the message: “Enough, that what you want is an
entirely new agitation which until now has always been
rejected.” Luxemburg’s ideas, he states, were a departure
from the SPD program.
will not linger long on Luxemburg’s response to Kautsky’s
rejection of a republic. Many claim we have such a thing
here in the United
States. But it is significant to
mention that Kautsky thought her call to discuss the possibility
of a republic - propaganda (“propaganda for a republic”)
- far from anything Marx and Engels might have considered.
“Even your point of departure is false. There is not one
word in our program about a republic,” writes Kautsky.
new agitation…is the sort we have no business discussing
so openly. With your article you want to proclaim on
your own hook, as a single individual, an entirely new
agitation which the party has always rejected. We cannot
and will not proceed in this manner. A single personality,
however high she may stand, cannot pull off a fait accompli
on her own hook which can have unforeseeable consequences
for the party.
is “no piece of heroism” on her part, Luxemburg explains.
Both Marx and Engels supported the demand for a republic.
So how is it possible Kausky mobilizes Marx and Engels
against her, she asks, and claim she is presenting a “new
“Political Demands,” section II, specifically refers to
the “one flaw” in the SPD’s list of demands: “What actually
should have been said is not there.”
anything is certain,” Engels wrote, “it is that our party
and the working class can only come to power under the
form of a democratic republic.” What Engels “unqualifiedly
declares” to be essential, Luxemburg explains, “is discussion
of the slogan of a republic in the party press.” If
not now and sometime in the near future! But as Luxemburg
notes, “the follow up practice was not done.”
now to the mass strike.”
you familiar with my pamphlet about the mass strike
(1906)? It deals exactly  with all the questions that K.K. [Karl Kautsky] has brought
up. It turns out that even our best people actually
did not at all absorb the lessons of the Russian revolution
it never occurred to Kautsky to censor Luxemburg’s article
or to “‘forbid’ discussion of the mass strike.” (“Letter
to Konrad Haenisch, [Friedenau,] June 18, 1910, The
Letters of Rosa Luxemburg, 2011)
creation of a “whole new theory of the conditions for
political mass strike in Russia and in Germany” (“Theory
and Practice”) is sinister, Luxemburg surmises, because
it is motivated by the desire to steady the boat and prepare
the workers for the voting rights campaigns already underway
aside, the voting rights campaigns and the elections are
what the party feels is good for the people! …
happened in the 1905 Russian Revolution cannot happen
in Germany, Kautsky argues. Don’t look to “revolutionary
examples,” as Luxemburg suggests. The “conditions for
the mass strike” existed in “backward” Russia
but, in Germany,
“they do not” because, in Germany,
“‘we have political freedom”! Workers are provided “various
‘safe’ forms for their protests and struggle, and hence
they are totally preoccupied with organizations, meetings,
the press, and elections of all sorts’” (“Theory and Practice”).
In other words, the people have “safe,” as in ineffective,
ways of “protesting” to the government!
a means of struggle, the political mass strike could
only be employed here in a single, final battle ‘to
the death’ - and therefore only when the question, for
the proletariat, was conquer or die.
a positive result can be expected,” Karl Kautsky and the
SPD will consider the possibility of allowing the people
to engage in a mass strike.
is the position of Kautsky and the SPD, Luxemburg argues.
Mass strikes for “backward” Russia but not for “the strongest” government:
challenges the absurdity of Kautksy’s logic:
Social Democracy, on the other hand, should in all seriousness
come to acknowledge a government to be ‘the strongest’
which ‘nothing but a military despotism embellished
with parliamentary forms, alloyed with a feudal admixture,
obviously influenced by the bourgeoisie, shored up with
a bureaucracy, and watched over by the police’ –I find
that somewhat hard to grasp.
Germany is not populated
with happy workers benefiting from “the strongest” government
Somehow, she writes, Kautsky has forgotten
quite enormous slave herds of Prusso-German state employers,
railroad workers and postal workers, as well as the
farm workers, who unfortunately enjoy very limited measure
of that contented preoccupation with “organizations,
meetings, and options of all sorts” as long as the right
to organize is legally or practically denied them.
categories of workers, Luxemburg continues, “live politically
as well as economically in genuine ‘Russian’ conditions…not
to mention miners - will find it impossible, in the midst
of a political convulsion, to maintain their slavish obedience
or to refrain from presenting their special bill of reckoning
in the form of giant mass strikes.”
Kautsky further claims that “the strongest” government
has experienced the “glory of almost a century of continuous
victories over the strongest great powers in the world.”
And - “a strike in Germany
would result in failure.” German worker could “take up
the strike as a means of struggle only when he has the
prospect of attaining definite successes with it.
If these successes fail to appear, the strike has failed
is the gospel according to Karl Kautsky - not Karl Marx!
Participate in the elections, not in strikes and street
protests! And, of course, Kautsky is a self-declared Marxist
at the time he writes, “A New Strategy.”
any union agitator knows, writes Luxemburg, “definite
successes” in the form of material gains “absolutely are
not and cannot be the sole purpose, the sole determining
aspect in economic struggles.” In other parts of Europe,
strikes “without much ‘plan’” erupt because “a great exploited
mass of proletarians [stand] opposed to the concentrated
ruling power of capital or the capitalist state.” Strikers
are not infrequent but frequent, she continues, and “mostly
end without any ‘definite successes’ at all - but in spite,
or rather just because of this are of greater significance
as explosions of a deep inner contradiction which spills
over into the realm of politics.”
are periods of the “most beautiful confusion” - “spontaneous
combustion of the masses,” union leadership, “economic
struggle and political struggle, mass strikes and revolution.”
But it seems “that ‘theory’ does not merely ‘stride forward’
more slowly than practice: alas, from time to time it
also goes tumbling backwards.”
Organize voting rights campaigns! Prepare for the
elections! We are the Left; we’ve got your back!
we wonder why in the 21st Century it is possible for the
capitalist state to amass its power to repress the voice
of opposition and protests and to misrepresent the lived
experiences of the workers even to themselves? Look to
the Left, Luxemburg suggests! Look to those who present
themselves as adherents of class struggle but who function
for the capitalist rulers.
How can the workers here in the U.S. call for a General Strike
for May 1st when we are “the strongest” government in
thee world and we have a “Black” president?
the Occupy Movement is supporting the May 1st call to
stage a general strike, the Left press is silent.
Elections! Change again is on the way!
should focus our attention, as Kautsky would argue, to
supporting “the strongest government” and postpone expectations
for “a mass strike until the year after the Reichstag
This is “nothing-but-parlimentarism.” - politics for the
capitalists - and the rise of a fascist state will not
be far behind!
Luxemburg did not live to see the rise of the fascist
state. She was murdered by the Freikorps in Janaury 1919.
But she knew…
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Lenore Jean Daniels,
PhD, has a Doctorate in Modern American Literature/Cultural
Theory. Click here
to contact Dr. Daniels.
 The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg, editors, Georg
Adler, Peter Hudis and Annelies Laschitza. Most of these
letters in this collection are, for the first time, available
 The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, editors, Peter
Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, 2004.
 (1854-1938), Social Democratic writer, influential
theoretician of the Second International…Luxemburg broke
with him [after] he moved closer to reformism (The
Letters of Rosa Luxemburg).
 Words in bold print are present here as they
appear in The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg
and are established by the editors of that text.
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