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Rosa Luxemburg

Rosa Luxemburg was arguably one of the finest political theorists of the 20th century. An

orthodox Marxist, she was involved in the socialist movement in Poland, Russia and most actively

in Germany. Unique to her 'Luxemburgian' political philosophy was the fact that she stood not

for Marxism, Communism or Socialism but only for reality. In Luxemburg's words she supported

Marxism because "Marx was the best interpreter of reality of them all(Rosa Luxemburg, p9)."

Rosa Luxemburg was born March 5, 1871 in Zamoßç, Poland of a middle class, Jewish

family. She studied in Warsaw and completed her doctorate in natural science and political

economy at the University of Zürich. In 1898 Luxemburg moved to Germany, marrying another

Marxist revolutionary, Leo Jogiches and worked as a journalist and author. She was one of the

founders of Spartakusbund, from which sprang the German Communist Party, and a significant

leader of the German political Left. Arrested in 1916, she was charged with sedition and

imprisoned. On January of 1919 she was again arrested, this time by the Freikorps, and on the

way to jail was assassinated.

Until recently, little was known of Rosa Luxemburg's personal history, as she guarded her

private life assiduously. Newly discovered information has revealed a unique family environment

that can be directly attributed to her accomplishments as an adult. Her family relationship was

close and always supportive. Luxemburg was reared in an atmosphere of mutual respect, trust,

humanity and contempt for social and ethnic distinctions; this in complete contrast to the one

distinct characteristic of European culture- nationalism. She grew up enveloped in an "assimilated

Polish-Jewish peer group whose cultural background was German, political formation Russian

and had formed their own isolated code of honor(Rosa Luxemburg, p15)." They thought of

themselves as simply European standing outside of all social ranking. Her particular heritage

explains Luxemburg's self-confidence in the face of a male dominated, racist, society, as well as

developing her passionate and rigid sense of morality.

Luxemburg's political ideas were based in her desire to further humanitarian good, not to

further her own career or ambition. They, therefore, are uncluttered by personal agendas and

come from a uniquely feminine perspective. The ideas are inexplicable, being simultaneously

radical and yet obvious. History has continually proven her correct, most obviously, through her

prediction of the failure of the Soviet Union.

Luxemburg's obscurity in history can be attributed to it's rewriting by the Soviet regime

after World War II. Her ideas, although based in Marxism were uniquely her own and therefore a

threat to Lenin. But her philosophies belong wherever the history of political ideas is seriously

taught. Luxemburg's death kept the German Left splintered, she being probably the only member

capable of coalescing the various factions. If Rosa Luxemburg had lived to lead the proletariat in

Germany, it can be argued that Hitler and W.W.II might never have occurred.

Sources Consulted

Nettl, J.P. with an introduction by Hannah Arendt. Rosa Luxemburg. Oxford University Press, 1969.

Orlow, Dietrich. A history of modern Germany 1871 to present. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, c1995.

Johnson, Paul. Modern Times; the world from the Twenties to the Eighties. Harper & Row Pub., 1983.

Laquer, Walter. Europe in our time; a history -1945-1992. New York: Viking Press, c1992.

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