Rosa Luxemburg’s letters

This video says about itself:

Rosa Luxemburg was one of the most prominent revolutionary socialist theorists, after Marx and Engels. In 1914, in opposition to the SPD’s support of German involvement in World War I, she, together with Karl Liebknecht, founded the revolutionary Spartakusbund (Spartacist League), that in 1919 became the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). In November 1918, during the German Revolution she founded the Die Rote Fahne (The Red Flag), the central organ of the left wing revolutionaries. She regarded the Spartacist uprising of January 1919 in Berlin as a mistake, but supported it after it had begun. When the revolt was crushed by the rightwing Freikorps, Luxemburg, Liebknecht and hundreds of their supporters were captured, manhandled and killed. Since their deaths, Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht have achieved great symbolic status amongst both social democrats and Marxists.

By John Green in Britain:

The Letters Of Rosa Luxemburg

Edited by Georg Adler, Peter Hudis & Annelies Laschitza (Verso, £25)

Tuesday 15 February 2011

This volume of 230 of Rosa Luxemburg‘s letters was published to commemorate the [1]40th anniversary of her birth in March 1871.

That edition was based largely on the German selection Herzlichst, Ihre Rosa and published by Dietz Verlag in the GDR in 1989.

These letters are the first volume in English of what is hoped will eventually be Luxemburg‘s complete works in 14 volumes.

Verso is once again to be congratulated for this publishing inititiative, in an excellent translation by George Shriver.

What is also invaluable is a glossary of personalities mentioned in the letters and very informative footnotes.

Luxemburg has always been a controversial figure on the left, but was revered in her day and was undoubtedly one of the all-time leading thinkers of the socialist and communist movements.

She famously clashed with Lenin on the tactics adopted by the Bolsheviks and was always clear that socialism at the expense of democracy was not a road she was willing to take.

Like all collections of letters not originally intended for a wider readership or publication, much here is concerned with the daily trials and tribulations of friends, comrades and lovers and observations of a purely personal nature.

Yet they give a unique insight into her character, her deep humanity as well as her passionate commitment to the struggle for socialism.

Her unsuccessful attempts to reconcile her need for personal love, stability and homely pleasures with the enormous demands of the struggle would be ideal material for a dramatist.

She was often imprisoned by the German authorities who feared her fiery rhetoric and popularity and included here are some of her prison letters.

Despite the harsh conditions and frustration at her incarceration, she always dismisses her own deprivations to enquire about the health and well-being of friends outside, attempting to cheer them up and reignite their commitment to the cause.

She can be severely critical, uncompromisingly militant but also warm and compassionate.

Her resilience in the face of great odds, her thirst for knowledge and breadth of interests, as well as her self-sacrifice and sense of humour, are still inspirations for us today.

The odd quirky Americanisms grate a little but are minor – “Kuchen” is not really “Cookie” and “Titmice” will sound archaic to an English readership.

See also here. And here.

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