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Rosa Luxemburg and Capitalism’s Spectacles



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The lesson of Hobbs and Tocqueville can be boiled down to a brief but chilling dictum: concentrated power, whether of a Leviathan, a benevolent despotism, or a superpower, is impossible without the support of a complicitous citizenry that willingly signs on to the covenant, or acquiesces, or clicks the ‘mute button.’


-Sheldon S. Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism

‘Deutschland, Deutschland uber allies,’ ‘long live democracy,’ ‘long live the Tsar and slavery,’ ‘ten thousand tent cloths, guaranteed according to specifications,’ ‘hundred pounds of bacon,’ ‘coffee substitute, immediate delivery’…dividends are rising - proletarians falling, and with each one there sinks a fighter of the future, a soldier of the revolution, a savior of humanity from the yoke of capitalism, into the grave.


-Rosa Luxemburg, “The Junius Pamphlet,” The Rosa Luxemburg Reader

What now must be done is that with full consciousness all the forces of the proletariat should be concentrated in an attack on the very foundations of capitalist society…there, step by step, we must seize the means of power from the rulers and take them into our own hands…In the form that I depict it, the process may seem rather more tedious than one had imagined it at first. It is healthy, I think, that we should be perfectly clear as to all the difficulties and complications of this revolution. For I hope that, as in my own case, so in yours also, the description of the difficulties of the accumulating tasks will paralyze neither your zeal nor your energy.


-Rosa Luxemburg, “Our Program and the Political Situation,” The Rosa Luxemburg Reader

In the milieu of the 1990s version of “liberalism,” I suspended teaching at the college level and activism to pursue a doctorate degree. By “liberalism,” I refer to Sheldon Wolin’s definition of the new liberalism which sidelines “secularism and rationalism” and social democracy in order “to seek validation for liberal anticommunism abroad and at home.”

There are cracks in this “newest” Empire’s totalizing structure

The new liberalism that distances itself from “‘the Left’ and populist democracy to celebrate a new, more clear-eyed elite…committed to Cold War, lukewarm or indifferent toward social democracy, and increasingly unreceptive to equalitarian ideals.” The new liberalism that could schedule discussions and readings focused on the usual Leftist theorist - aside from Marx and Engels, Lenin, Fanon, Althusser, Gramsci, Lukacs, Benjamin, Adorno, Guevara, and an assortment of other, predominantly male thinkers, Lacan, Derrida, Foucault, and Girard, but rarely, if at all, link these discussions to the gentrification process, for example, taking place intensely at that time in Chicago - which was familiar to certain faculty since such faculty were new property owners and granted by the city the right to “rehab” old buildings and homes where once poor Blacks lived in poverty.

That new liberalism that did not mention the thinker and Marxist scholar, Rosa Luxemburg, at least not in the classes in which I sat or in the discussions to which I was privy, and rarely offers her work for consideration now as we face the totalizing agenda of the capitalist project.

In recent years, a friend suggested I look into Luxemburg. Read Luxemburg! I said I would do so, but there was never time, until earlier this year. I chanced to hear a KPFA interview in which Professor Hudis, one of the editors of The Rosa Luxemburg Reader (2004)[1] and The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg (2011),[2] spoke about the work and life of this remarkable woman.

How right this woman was in her analysis of analysis of the Left’s betrayal of Marxism, of the workers’ movements. Luxemburg’s analysis is certainly relevant today, and yet, for the last 70 years, Luxemburg has been “assassinated” and all that she represented thrown aside again by the Left, at least in the U.S. But, then, the liberals make some of the best warriors in support of totalitarian regimes.

Born in the town of Zamosc in what is now Poland, under Russian occupation, Luxemburg experienced the capitalist’s trickle-down theory of the Tsar and the neighboring empires of Franz Joseph (Austrian-Hungarian) and Kaiser Wilhelm II (Germany) - the spectacle of inequalities.

A subject of the Tsar and a “Slav” born in a region of Slavic people, far beneath civilized Europe, Luxemburg was attuned to the rising of the working class and of the Social Democratic party in both in Austria and in Germany where, she became a member of the SPD of Germany after fleeing the Polish authorities for her activism. For Luxemburg, the struggle was everywhere workers were and so too was what she called the “barbaric cause.”

It was not surprising that this Polish, Jewish woman had a different take on capitalism and repression that, in turn, represented a challenge to not only the capitalist but to the socialists as well.

Inverted totalitarianism encourages “political disengagement rather than mass mobilization”

In Germany, Luxemburg confronts the “crisis of Marxism”[3] by writing a challenge to SPD’s Eduard Berstein’s series of articles (“Problems of Socialism,” Neue Zeit, 1897-98) in which he, according to Luxemburg, “tends to counsel the renunciation of the social transformation, the final goal of Social Democracy, and, inversely, to make social reforms, which are the means of the class struggle, into its end” (The Luxemburg Reader). Socialist goals could be accomplished by “evolutionary means” (Richard Wolin, Dissent). Socialists in droves “accustomed themselves to the requirements of bourgeois electoral party politics. Marxism’s revolutionary thrust seemed but a distant memory” as World War 1 approached.

By 1908, Luxemburg recognized that “what lay ahead was not the final struggle for liberation which she so hoped and longed for, but a great blood-bath of peoples, for which she was prepared, but which she feared and loathed.”[4]

Still, ten years later, when the Bismarckian Reich dissolved, the Hohenzollern dynasty abdicated, and Wilhelm II fled to Holland, and the Revolution in Germany was underway, Luxemburg screamed a warning of an impending disaster, not that of the approaching danger for herself and her comrades in the struggle, but for the murder of the people’s struggle itself. She foresaw what came to fruition. Instead of the masses “rising to the heights of heroism in the cause of their own emancipation,” they were “deluded, humiliated, and dragged to the slaughter-house for the most barbaric cause” - war!

Just as Luxemburg predicted, by January 1919,[5] several months after the end of the World War I, former SPD president and now head of the German government, Friedrich Ebert, ordered the German Supreme Army Command and the Freikorps, to crush dissent within the Fatherland.

The news reached in every corner of the new Weimar society. Cheers went up! Certainly one person cheering Luxemburg’s death would have been Benito Mussolini, the one-time leader of the Italian Socialist Party and editor of the Avanti![6] Journalists and cartoonists to the “out-and-out defenders of capitalist profits” to self-proclaimed Left “revolutionaries” who collected crumbs for the poor proletarian to the capitalist themselves, cheered![7] This is capitalism in its most instructive role as educator of the masses!

“Bloody Rosa,” that “modern Fury,” is dead! Long live Order!


It never happens once, but repeatedly!

A young Rosa Luxemburg would have had a front row seat from which to observe the world.

The year between July 1888 to April 1989, Vienna, the Empire’s capital, witnessed some of the most spectacular displays of nobility and wealthy for the world to see and partake. “Vienna’s Chinese Wall” that insulated the city “would sink away before a series of progressive spectacles” announced to the press.[8] In Vienna, the world’s model city, the construction of the buildings on the Ringstrasse, including the new Court Theatre was near completion. Come promenade on the Ringstrasse, celebrate the Emperor’s birthday and his reign on the throne, and hear Wagner’s The Ring in our grand Court Theatre!

For the Emperor and for many residents, the government was creating something new!

If you were of the wealthy, or a member of the bourgeois class or artisan class and you lived near Ringstrasse , “four kilometers…[that] stood forever on the verge of a crescendo…[with] its park-like malls…flower-scented…where the Parliament and City Hall, the Imperial Museums, the University, the Court Opera, the Bourse, a teaming with pointed arches, towers, pillars, loggias, with vista after sculptured vista in neo-Gothic, neo-Renaissance, neo-Baroque” - all new, barely weathered,” in the Empire’s and the world’s model city, Vienna, then you were fortunate.

How does it happen that the interest of the capitalists becomes the interest of the poor and working classes, of the activists and leadership on the Left?

Vienna was a beloved city, where the “accomplishment” of the “gesture” was more significant than the “accomplishment” of success. The Gesture was supreme.[9] And why not? This is capitalism again as the grand master of instruction! If you were the young Sigmund Freud, you invested in a “good address,” Maria Theresienstrasse near the Ringstrasse, even if the rent was beyond your means and there were fewer and fewer to no patients ringing your doorbell.[10] Or if Gustav Klimt, you sweated out murals, “prestigious hackwork,” you neither imagined nor believed in. When your gift should have been one molded in gold, yours was a silver ring or a silver heart-shaped trinket, and you felt humiliated because you were close but not quite.

This is serious business, the business of keeping the masses of working class as spectators and keeping the spectators glued to the glitter!

And you could not look too closely at the new, for the buildings of the Ringstrasse, already crumbling. They were! The “Parthenon-like palace” of Parliament had huge chunks of concrete fall outside while inside, “the behavior of its deputies” became “ever more abrasive and fragmented.”

If you lived in the margins, the Ottakring, west of Ringstrasse, then you would have known something of crumbling buildings.

There you were a resident of the “largest proletarian district,” steeped in “poverty.” Children and adults died of starvation and froze to death, and if fortunate in this world within a world, suffered from malnutrition and rented a bed, like the ten million co-residents not lucky enough to live in a two-room flat for one or more families, with “peeling doors” and “dank corridors.” But here, the residents were fiercely loyal - to the Emperor of all emperors, Franz Joseph. Votive posters with the Emperor’s image made by school children hung in ever abode in the Ottakring. But this poverty, barely noticed on any average day was certainly invisible during the days of the spectacle.

 Vienna itself, its presence, narcotized the poor past their troubles. The very tenements in which they slept were embossed with flourishes outside. Each window had its corniced dignity - never mind the dank bedding that hung out of it each morning for fresh air. The plaster goddess supporting a fake balcony ignored the laundry drooping from her stucco limb; she only looked at the monarchy’s birthday banner that already glittered from the flagstaff.

This is the year of 1888, and Vienna and the world celebrated the monarch’s 40th year as Emperor and his 58th birthday! In Vienna, the poor and working class cheered happily as the bourgeoisie “promenaded” on Ringstrasse - all hoping to get a glimpse of the Emperor, minor heads of regions, archdukes, grand dukes, princes, and “miscellaneous highnesses,” and capitalist financiers, and, of course, the notorious Wilhelm II of Germany, (Prussian Reich), a significant competitor to Joseph, intended to outshine all of them and Vienna itself.[11] (“Nation was beginning to mean nationalism,” in 1888).

Nonetheless, the Empire was the world then and Vienna the place to be if you lived in the world.

People cheered from “windows, roofs, sidewalks” as the stately procession passed by them. They listened as bands played music to anthems “both Empires had in common,” “God protect our Emperor” for Austria and “Deutschland uber Allies,” for the Prussian Reich.

Inside the Imperial Palace, the invited nobility and wealthy waltzed on parquet floor, some covered by Oriental rugs, with champagne flowing under chandeliers.

Fight no longer for revolution but for the capitalists’ “just” cause

Eighteen eighty-eight was the year of “fashion.” Fashion “became commerce, professional, created, cannily merchandized, widely broadcast, tensely practiced.” The Emperors of the Reich and of the whole Empire were regal and adorned with many embroidered epaulettes. Wilhelm, “his renowned slow swagger” and splendid “uniform of his Austrian regiment,” dazzled.

There was so much dazzle that few noticed the Danube River.

There was something old there, something constituting “a menace.”

Some of its wild arms near the [Wiener] Prater [Park] had become pestilential swamps that badly needed cleaning up. They had already infected parts of the city’s water supply. Typhoid cases were reported here and there toward the end of October.

Then there were those bodies!

In the Danube - human bodies![12] Eighteen eighty-eight Vienna, the model city of the Empire, had more suicides per capita “than most European cities.” These suicides were reported in the papers - not like today, when our government keeps hush on the number of suicides committed by returning vets alone! These deaths were reported, but life went on!

The poor and working class found relief in the Danube, but there was a “particularly high incidence” of suicide “among the upper bourgeoisie.” [13] Then there was also just the middle class always trying to find themselves, “individually since, unlike other classes, they couldn’t do so collectively.”

As much as the Emperor tried, in this year, mid-1888 to mid 1889, not everyone was as jubilant about the Empire’s and Vienna’s “progress” as the Emperor.[14] But a few residents of Vienna gathered at the Western Railways terminal to greet Georg von Schonerer, leader of the “zealot anti-Semitic pan-German Party.” Not many, a few, but then you do not need but a few! Among this few who listened to Schonerer were customs inspector Alois Hitler, and his wife Klara, “who had just become pregnant.” (Adolf would learn how to form a party and to put on spectacles of his own, too).

In opposition to the “nervous splendor” on display in Vienna, that model city of the Empire, one wealthy resident “living comfortably in his father’s apartment” near the Ringstrasse, was Dr. Viktor Adler, born in Prague, Bohemia, now the Czech Republic. Adler was organizing. “Few of the workers on whose behalf Adler was framing a program saw themselves as the masses unified by the need to revolt.” Adler was forming the Social Democratic Party of Austria.

And there in 1888 was the 17-year-old Rosa Luxemburg, who had not become “narcotized” by the spectacle.

 In your affectionate anxiety about me you definitely take too tragic a view of my relocation [from the Wronke fortress to the Breslau prison]. After all, the likes of us are constantly living ‘one step at a time,’ and you know, I take all the twists and turns of fate with the necessary cheerful equanimity. I have already settled in here quite well, my boxes of books arrived from Wronke today, and so my two cells here will be looking just as homelike and comfortable as were my quarters there… (Letter to Sophie Liebknecht, Breslau, August 2, 1917, The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg).

I can get by with the material [that I have] for the introduction, and I thank you many times over for what I have received. (Letter to Louise Kautsky, [Breslau,] May 28, 1918)

We are corresponding, and she has promised to send me books from his library… (Letter to Clara Zetlin, Breslau, June 1918).

For her work to see justice in the world and for her opposition to war (World War I), Rosa Luxemburg (as a member of the SPD of Germany and later of the Spartacus League) spent a good deal of time in prison where her confinement in a cell not only linked her to confined communities of the poor, the working class, the floating dead in the Danube and other rivers in the so-called civilized world but also to the sacrificial mechanism that sustains the survival of capitalism’s spectacle. The poor conditions of the prisons she entered were not the point: Reform or revolution! “Home,” for Luxemburg, was not located among the participants or audience of the spectacle; “comfort” could not be achieved by celebrating “progress” and then waiting and waiting, quietly and patiently for the trickling down of crumbs. I take all the twists and turns of fate with the necessary cheerful equanimity… Reform or revolution! Luxemburg saw and understood more from “below” than she ever could from “above.”

“Comfort” could not be achieved by celebrating “progress” and then waiting and waiting, quietly and patiently for the trickling down of crumbs

War, Luxemburg came to realize, is the “barbaric cause” for which the whole of capitalism’s spectacle either offers the festival of “hero” worshipping or the “blood-bath” of people. War, she writes in “The Junius Pamphlet,” “is not only a grandiose murder, but the suicide of the European working class” Initiated by Austria and Germany, the present war, (WWI), “supporting Turkey and the Hapsburg monarchy, and strengthening Germany’s military autocracy is a second burial of the March revolutionists [1848], and of the national progress of the German people” (The Rosa Luxemburg Reader).

In the gestures of those absurdities of social relations are millions and millions of people beckoning toward enslavement to and annihilation by capitalism. Resistance is confronted head-on with well-oiled “weapons” - yesterday’s bayonet and today’s drones and always prisons.

The confinement of thinkers and activists, of communities of the poor, the working classes, and the floating dead in the Danube and other rivers all represent not only what is socially marginalized but also what is actually the real material existence of the majority of the world’s population, contrary and, at the same time, essentially essential to the establishment of order for the capitalist classes. Here are sites of resistance, Karl Marx tells us, but in this pivotal period when workers in Russia and Germany and other locations throughout Europe take to the streets and the capitalist are reveling up for war, regime change and the procurement of resources for expansion and profits, where is the socialist’s leadership?

Promenading and pontificating.

There is a telling comment in one of Luxemburg’s earliest letters, dated July 17, 1891, after she escaped from the authorities in Poland and arrived in Switzerland to begin work on her dissertation. On a visit to Mornex, France, she encounters Russian revolutionary, Georgy Plekhanov:

 I won’t go there again because Plekhanov is too highly developed for me, or more exactly, is too highly educated. What can a conversation with me offer him? He knows everything better than I do, and such original, ‘spontaneous’ ideas, you know, I can’t come up with them, and to tell you the truth I don’t even consider them of very great value. At the Axelrods I observed Plekhanov from the corner, [and] simply to watch the way he talks, how he moves, and to observe his face - that was extraordinarily pleasant for me. But to go to Mornex, and to sit in the corner and admire him, that just won’t do. (Letters of Rosa Luxemburg)

But not long after Luxemburg did make her acquaintance with the Father of Russian Marxism and a centralist, and a supporter of the Entente in World War I:

I did some real bawling and made myself a mass of new enemies. Plekhanov and Axelrod (and with them, Gurvich, Martov, et. al) are the most pathetic things the Russian revolution has to offer. (Letter to Clara Zetkin, [Friedenau,], Letters, June 4, 1907)

As were other “socialist” leaders such Bernstein and Karl Kautsky, by then, Plekhanov were, themselves, steeped in gesturing, waving white flags and calling for the masses of workers to fight no longer for revolution but for the capitalists’ “just” cause.

If, at the beginning of a struggle, philosophers and theorists look to science, they will “see in poverty nothing but poverty, without seeing in it the revolutionary subversive side, which will overthrow the old society” (Marx, “The Poverty of Philosophy,” 1847). This was not the fate of Rosa Luxemburg for whom the contradictions of the waltzing society could be found in the bare walls and locked door of her cell - without a Kautsky or Plekhanov in sight!

Sitting in her prison cell, Luxemburg asks “How does it happen?” Long before the philosopher Michel Foucault echoed the same question, insisting that we must ask “how does it happen” and not just ask “who exercises power?” How does it happen that the interest of the capitalists becomes the interest of the poor and working classes, of the activists and leadership on the Left?

The plaster goddess supporting a fake balcony ignored the laundry drooping from her stucco limb

Luxemburg witnessed worker uprisings in Poland, Russia, and Germany. She witnessed conference after conference in which socialist leaders played politics with the existing power. In prison, the most valuable reading material she ever received, more valuable than the books smuggled to her, were the letters from friends who once stood beside her before the war but who now began to doubt the validity of the struggle for justice and equality.

Luxemburg, still serving time in Wronke, responded to a letter written by Mathilde Wurm while “the anger…stirred up” by the friend’s letter was “still fresh”: “[D]earest Tilde…your letter made me hopping mad, because every line in…shows how very much you are again under the spell of your milieu” (Letters of Rosa Luxemburg).

This crybaby tone, this ‘oh dear’ and ‘woe is me’ about the ‘disappointments’ you’ve experienced - attributing to others, instead of just looking at the mirror to see all the wretchedness of humanity in its most striking likeness! And in your mouth ‘we’ now means the froggy denizens of the swamp [i.e., the centrists] with whom you now associate, whereas earlier, when you were with me, ‘we’ meant in company with me

You suppose, in your melancholy way, that you are ‘too little of an adventure-goer’ for my taste…Generally speaking, all of you are not ‘goers’ but ‘creepers.’ It is not a difference of degree, but of substance. …[y]ou-all’s peevish, sourpuss, cowardly, and half-hearted way of being was never so foreign and so hateful to me as now. You suggest that ‘adventure-going’ would indeed be suitable for you-all, but one merely gets put ‘in the hole’ for that, and is then ‘of little use.’ Oh, you miserable pettifogging souls, who would certainly be ready for a bit of ‘heroism,” but only for cash, for at least three moldy cooper pennies, because you first have to see ‘something of use’ lying on the store counter. And as for you people the simple statement of honorable and straightforward men…It’s lucky that world history up to now was not made by people like all of you, because otherwise we would have had no Reformation and would probably still be sitting under the ancien regime. As for me, in recent times I, who certainly was never soft, have become hard as polished steel and from now on will neither politically nor in personal relations make even the slightest concession.

Luxemburg writes of recalling Wurm’s “gallery” of heroes and of experiencing “a fit of depression”: “the sweet-spoken Haase, Dittmann with his lovely beard and lovely Reichstag speeches, and the wavering, misguided shepherd Kautsky, who your Emmo[15] follows loyally, of course, over hill and dale, the magnificent Arthur [Stadthagen].” Luxemburg writes that she would rather serve years in “the cave at Alexanderplatz…in an eleven square meter cell,” on “an iron bunk,” than “‘fight’ beside your heroes.” 

“Have you had enough of my New Year’s greeting yet?”

Then see you remain a human being. To be human is the main thing, above all else. And that means: to be firm and clear and cheerful, yes, cheerful in spite of everything and anything, because howling is the business of the weak…The world is so beautiful, with all its horrors, and would be even more beautiful if there were no weaklings and cowards in it.

This is how it happens, Luxemburg exclaims:

‘Deutschland, Deutschland uber allies,’ ‘long live democracy,’ ‘long live the Tsar and slavery,’ ‘ten thousand tent cloths, guaranteed according to specifications,’ ‘hundred pounds of bacon,’ ‘coffee substitute, immediate delivery’…dividends are rising - proletarians falling, and with each one there sinks a fighter of the future, a soldier of the revolution, a savior of humanity from the yoke of capitalism, into the grave. (“The Junius Pamphlet,” The Rosa Luxemburg Reader)

No one dare stand alone! The language of liberation is outdated, as one former colleague told me. “Class struggle” is a forbidden term! Those in poverty are those at fault; “weaklings and cowards” are unpatriotic! We are all Americans; all of us are in the struggle against terrorism! Elections, elections, election are coming in November! Remember the “terrorists” want what we have! They want to crush democracy and take away our freedoms! Globalization is an expression of progress and U.S. compassion!

One person cheering Luxemburg’s death would have been Benito Mussolini

“Inverted totalitarianism!” Seventy years after Rosa Luxemburg’s assassination, and now we are witnesses to the spectacle of a totalizing project that, according to Sheldon S. Wolin,[16] wields “total power without appearing to” - that is, so long as the dissidents remain “ineffectual.” Inverted totalitarianism encourages “political disengagement rather than mass mobilization.” Citizens, no longer “the source of governmental power,” have been displaced by the “electorate” process. In between the spectacle of “shock and awe,” the world bares witness to a spectacle of managed democracy via corporate high-tech gadgetry. Wolin: “during the intervals between elections the political existence of the citizenry is relegated to a shadow-citizenship of virtual participation. Instead of participating in power, the virtual citizen is invited to have ‘opinions’: measurable responses to questions predesigned to elicit them.” 

“Inverted totalitarianism” is “resolutely capitalist,” he explains, and certainly “no friend of the working classes, and, of course, viscerally antisocialist.” Charismatic leaders need not apply! In our totalizing system, “the leader is not the architect of the system but its product.” 

Everything is under control! Democracy is managed, for the United States has mastered the science of management “democracy” without appearing to suppress it. Any problem, Wolin continues, from health care to political crisis to faith is managed, that is, “subjected to control, predictability, and cost-effectiveness in the delivery of the product.” 

As a result, even voters 

are made as predictable as consumers; a university is nearly as rationalized in its structure as a corporation; a corporate structure is as hierarchical in its chain of command as the military. The regime ideology is capitalism, which is virtually as undisputed as Nazi doctrine was in 1930s Germany.

Arm-in-arm around the Ringstrasse waltz the bourgeois class, the intelligentsia, and the union leadership behind the capitalists, while the body count in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine and here at home, rises. Hurray for liberalism! For “American interests” and Israeli “peace settlements.” Hurray for the crusaders of democracy - and soaring profits! Hurray for the expansion of presidential authority and the sacrificing of Habeas Corpus and the Bill of Rights in the name of freedom! Elections, elections, elections are coming in November! 

But the gestures will not suffice today. Do not look too closely. The spirit of the revolution Rosa Luxemburg envisioned is at hand! Fighters are raising “an attack on the very foundation of capitalist society.”[17]But there are cracks in this “newest” Empire’s totalizing structure too, and the “prison” cell doors of the many everywhere are rattling! Editorial Board member and Columnist, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has a Doctorate in Modern American Literature/Cultural Theory. Click here to contact Dr. Daniels.

[1] Editors, Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson.

[2] Editors Georg Adler, Peter Hudis, and Annelies Laschitza. Note: Words in “bold” print appear as such in this text.

[3] See Richard Wolin’s Roots of Fascism,” Dissent, Vol. 42, Issue #1, Winter, 1995).

[4] Paul Frolich, Rosa Luxemburg: Ideas in Action, Pluto Press, London, trans., Joanna Hoorweg, 1939.

[5] In this same month, Adolf Hitler joins “a small group of anti-Semitic crackpot extremists [who] founded the German Workers Party” to fight and destroy Slavs, Jews, Marxism, liberalism, and the Versailles treaty, writes Bertram Gross., Friendly Fascism” The New Face of Power in America. It should also be noted that those who murdered Luxemburg later went on to join the Nazi Party, see Gordon Craig’s Germany: 1866-1945, Oxford Press, 1978. 

[6] In 1914, Luxemburg has no idea when she writes Karl Moor asking that he “send a request to the editors” of Avanti!  that the editor, Mussolini has made a “sharp” turn to the right, as the editors of the Letters state. After his expulsion from the Socialist Party in November 1914, he will begin to form a fascist party in Italy. See Gross,: After Luxemburg’s death, “as paeans of praise for Mussolini arose throughout Western capitalism, Mussolini consolidated his rule, purging anti-Fascists from the government service, winning decree power from the legislature, and passing election laws favorable to himself and his conservative, liberal, and Catholic allies.”

[7] Frolich.

[8] Frederic Morton, Nervous Splendor: Vienna, 1888/1889, Penguin Press, 1979.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Morton: When Freud was made Head of the Department of Neurology at the Pediatric Institute in 1888, his staff consisted of one student, and the “’department’ occupied corners here and there in whatever space happened to be  free.” Equipment was nonexistent and the penniless patients meant his “salary amounted to zero.” But he had printed visiting cards with that prestigious address.  

[11] See Gordon Craig’s Germany: 1866-1945, Oxford Press, 1978. Kaiser Wilhelm II “came to power when he was barely thirty years old” in 1888, after the death of his father. His accomplishments were more than gesture: He added new taxes on liquor and sugar, according to Craig, and increased the tariff on grain. In addition, Wilhelm II “lengthened the legislative period from three to five years, with a consequent diminution of the electorate’s influence on the political process.” These were not “widely popular” accomplishments. Late in the year 1889, he decided to completely destroy the “Social Democratic party by passing a new Socialist Law that would not have a limited term…but would be permanent.” 

[12] Morton: An Albert Last, “owner of the first large lending library in Vienna, “attending the monarch’s birthday celebration, “scaled the bridge rail and jumped into the river. He survived, barely. The newspapers were full of these reports of suicides. For example, a woman boarding a train in Budapest leaped to her death from the speeding train. “It seemed,” writes Frederic Morton, as if these people tried to overcome an uncontrollably failing life with a controlled, willed, carefully shaped death.”

[13] See Morton. Even the progressive-minded Crown Prince of the Empire, Rudolf, would enter a suicide pact with the very young Mary Vetsera, not his wife, Princess Stephanie of Austria, or formal mistress, in January, 1889. But in the years before, the Crown Prince secretly and anonymously publishes articles he writes in the Wiener Tagblatt (leading newspaper) in order to “budge the Monarchy from its friendship with Wilhelm, that bumptious reactionary,” and above all, “to encourage everything that might modernize and liberalize Austria.”

[14] See Morton: Even the Crown Prince, whose horse-driven cabby was often witnessed by the average citizen speeding through the town in violation of “traffic regulations,” mused about how the rich would promenade around a monumental fountain in the Ringstrasse with their “poodles” mincing “across those million-gulden lawns” while the poor crowded into “dilapidated public clinics.”

[15] See Letters: Nickname for Mathilde’s husband, Emmanuel.

[16] Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2008.

[17] Luxemburg, “Our Program and the Political Situation,” The Rosa Luxemburg Reader.


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Sept 20, 2012 - Issue 486

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