Who is Rosa Luxemburg?
Rosa Luxemburg was arguably one of the most iconic figures of the German and international workers' movement of the last centuries. She still inspires us today with her steadfastness for peace, her eloquent critical intellect, and her lifelong commitment to democratic socialism from below.
Rosa was born on March 5, 1871, into a family in Poland, then ruled by the Russian tsar. As a convinced Marxist, she became involved in revolutionary parties at a young age and published texts in underground and critical newspapers.
Due to her political activities, the repressive pressure of the rulers increased, which eventually drove her into exile in Switzerland. However, this did not stop Rosa from continuing to organize herself as a socialist, and therefore, she became one of the leading figures of the proletarian movement, which for the time was an outstanding thing, both as a woman and as a migrant.
She joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and at the same time became one of its greatest critics. The most powerful workers' party at the time was betraying the proletariat it was supposed to be fighting for as they voted to participate in World War 1 with almost no exception. True to her words socialism or barbarism, Rosa's next years were determined by her anti-militarist and anti-imperial commitment during the war, which eventually led her back to prison.
Europe's patriotic euphoria for war, fostered by rising nationalism and imperial ideology, was what Rosa, the eternal opponent of war, was resisting and eloquently engaging in. It went against Rosa's essence to accept that the international proletariat, instead of uniting, should kill each other for capitalist power interests in imperial wars.
Likewise, she denounced the suffering, misery, and devastation of people and nature that accompany wars. Instead, Rosa fought for the international proletariat to see each other as brothers and sisters, united by class-consciousness rather than blood and the international solidarity as their most powerful weapon.
Through this vision, Rosa's empathy for the oppressed of the world did not end at Europe's borders. Her solidarity proved to be a universal attitude in the moments when she spoke out against colonialism and defended the resistance of the indigenous populations as necessary. This was not merely derived from an abstract humanist view, but Rosa understood early on that the exploitation and subjugation of the Global South was the consequence of the capitalist logic of perpetual accumulation.
She recognized the interconnections between the intensifying imperial wars, colonialist plunder of resources, and capitalist production in the imperial centers. Rejecting opportunism and guided by peace, she founded from prison with her comrades of many years the Spartakusleague, which later developed the first Communist Party of Germany (KPD).
Inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917, which she viewed with solidarity but also with a critical attitude between comrades, the hope for an end to the war and finally a proletarian revolution with the goal of a soviet republic grew in Germany as well. However, the bourgeoisie, the military and the leading ranks of the Social Democrats united as counterrevolutionary forces to suppress the revolutionary aspirations of the working class. On January 15, 1919, Rosa was assassinated along with Karl Liebknecht by right wing Freikorps.
Rosa's life, in addition to her political devotion, was marked by close, sisterly friendships, longstanding comradeship and passionate love. Her poetic letters and writings and her deep connection to nature show a different, tender, Rosa and testify to her strong capacity for empathy. Her will to find what is worth living in every human emotion still give hope today for a more just and humane world as her legacy continues in our struggles.