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Luxemburg, Rosa

Luxemburg, Rosa

WORKS BY LUXEMBURG

SUPPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY

Rosa Luxemburg (1870–1919) was one of the founders of the Social Democratic party of Poland and Lithuania, the leader of the left wing of the Social Democratic party (SPD) in Germany, and a prominent Marxist economic theorist. She was born in Zamosc but spent her childhood and youth in Warsaw. She came from a family of Polish-speaking Jewish merchants, and her mother brought her up in a liberal atmosphere, instilling in her a love of classical German culture. She grew up in a period when the tsarist government was increasing its political and religious oppression and when socialist activity was beginning in Poland.

While still in high school Rosa Luxemburg became active in the socialist movement, and in 1889 she was forced to flee abroad. She entered the University of Zurich with the intention of studying natural sciences but soon shifted to political economy. In addition to the university program, she studied the works of Adam Smith, Ricardo, Rodbertus, and, above all, Marx. In her doctoral thesis, Die industrielle Entwicklung Polens (1898; “The Industrial Development of Poland”), she argued that the development of industrial capitalism in the Polish kingdom depended heavily on the Russian market and that the economy of the Polish kingdom would never be more than a part of the tsarist economy. The analysis in this book formed the basis upon which the Polish Social Democratic party built its political program.

In order to be able to take part in the German socialist movement, she acquired German citizenship through a fictitious marriage with a German emigrant. From 1897 until her death she lived, except for short intervals, in Berlin.

Immediately upon her arrival in Germany she joined Karl Kautsky in the fight against Eduard Bernstein and his revisionist followers. Bernstein’s thesis, “The movement is everything, the aim nothing,” was incompatible with her belief that the struggle for political power was a necessary aim of the socialist movement. Her essays criticizing Bernstein’s economic and political doctrines were collected in Reform or Revolution (1899).

In 1905 she returned to Warsaw under an assumed name to help the revolutionary movement there but was soon arrested. After her release from jail she went first to St. Petersburg and then to Finland, where she wrote the pamphlet Massenstreik, P artel und Gewerkschaften (1906; “General Strike, Party and Trade Unions”). The work contains a sociological analysis of the driving forces of social revolution and its mechanism—an analysis, on the one hand, of the role of the masses and, on the other hand, of the organization and role of the leaders. In this pamphlet she also developed the view that the general strike is the fundamental instrument in the struggle of the working class for power.

As the orthodox Marxists discussed their revolutionary experiences, particularly their experiences with political strikes, essential differences among them emerged. This led to a break between Luxemburg and Kautsky, which meant that the German Social Democratic party became divided into three groups: a right wing led by Bernstein, a center group led by Kautsky, and a left wing led by Luxemburg.

Beginning in 1907 she lectured at the Berlin school of the Social Democratic party. Both her earlier lectures on political economy and her later ones on economic history were published posthumously from her manuscripts, with the title Einführung in die Nationalökonomie (1925). Her most famous economic work, The Accumulation of Capital (1913), also grew out of these lectures.

The Accumulation of Capital may well be Luxemburg’s most important contribution to the social sciences. The book has as its main theme the conditions of economic growth under capitalism, and its original contribution lies, therefore, in the field of economic theory. In Luxemburg’s opinion, pure capitalism cannot create conditions adequate to maintain its own development. The main factor that gives capitalist production its dynamic power is the expansion toward noncapitalist areas, both underdeveloped countries and spheres of noncapitalist production within capitalist countries. This expansion comes about because capital accumulates, while at the same time demand within the capitalist society does not increase fast enough to absorb the increasing supply of goods.

During the imperialist phase of capitalism this difficulty is solved by the production of arms. The arms not only absorb domestic capital but also help create new markets in the colonies. The state’s customs and tax policies also play an important part in the economic development of capitalism, especially in the period of imperialism. Luxemburg saw free international trade as only an episode in the history of capitalism and criticized Marx for disregarding the historical conditions that affected the accumulation of capital; she charged Marx with considering historical conditions important only in relation to the birth of capitalism and exclusively with reference to private accumulation. Luxemburg believed instead that the relations between capitalism and its precapitalist surroundings constitute a source of tension and international conflict. These lead to a series of wars and social revolutions that in turn start the process of the decline of capitalism. In the history of Marxist economic theory Luxemburg’s work on the accumulation of capital has produced much theoretical and political polemics.

Initially, the reactions to The Accumulation of Capital were negative. Such theorists as Karl Kautsky, Otto Bauer, and Nikolai Bukharin not only rejected the major theory of the book but even questioned whether the problems investigated by Luxemburg were important ones. The first work in the literature of economics seriously to consider as well as to extend Luxemburg’s theory of accumulation was Fritz Sternberg’s Der Imperialismus (1926). Only with the Keynesian revolution was Luxemburg’s theory, that lack of purchasing power causes a breakdown in the capitalist system, rehabilitated.

Luxemburg was again imprisoned during World War I, this time for her antimilitary activities. She devoted the three years she spent in jail to theoretical and journalistic writing. She wrote a book answering the critics of The Accumulation of Capital, a brief work on the crisis of social democracy (known as the “Junius Pamphlet”; see Luxemburg 1916), and the unfinished manuscript from which the posthumously published Russian Revolution (see in 1904–1922) was drawn. The Russian Revolution is one of the most controversial works in socialist political literature, where it occupies a position similar to that of The Accumulation of Capital in economic literature. Luxemburg acclaimed the October Revolution as the most important result of World War I, but this did not prevent her from criticizing Bolshevik practice. Thus, she deplored the fact that the postrevolutionary political system was a dictatorship not of the masses, but over the masses. She was disappointed that the large land-holdings had been divided among the peasants, for she felt that this created a new and powerful class of proprietors, i.e., enemies of socialism. She also disapproved of Bolshevik policy toward nationalities.

Upon her release from prison at the end of 1918, Luxemburg immediately joined the German revolution. Late that year she and Karl Liebknecht together founded the German Communist party and wrote its program. They were both arrested early in 1919 and were both assassinated by the soldiers in whose custody they had been placed.

Tadeusz Kowalik

[For the historical context of Luxemburg’s work, see Economic THOUGHT, article onsocialist thought; Imperialism; Marxism; Socialism; and the biographies of Bernstein; Kautsky; Marx.]

WORKS BY LUXEMBURG

(1894–1925) 1951 Ausgewählte Reden und Schriften. 2 vols. With a preface by Wilhelm Pieck. Berlin: Dietz.

1898 Die industrielle Entwicklung Polens: Inaugural-Dissertation. Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot.

(1899) 1951 Reform or Revolution. With an introduction by Hector Abhayavardhan. Bombay: Modern India Publications. → First published as Sozialreform oder Revolution?

(1904–1922) 1961 The Russian Revolution and Leninism or Marxism? With an introduction by Bertram D. Wolfe. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press. → Two pamphlets, first published in German. Leninism or Marxism? was first published in 1904; Die russische Revolution was published posthumously in 1922, edited by P. Levi.

(1906) 1951 Massenstreik, Partei und Gewerkschaften. Volume 1, pages 157–257 in Rosa Luxemburg, Ausgewählte Reden und Schriften. Berlin: Dietz.

(1913) 1964 The Accumulation of Capital. New York: Monthly Review Press. → First published in German.

(1916) 1951 Die Krise der Sozialdemokratie (Junius-Broschüre). Volume 1, pages 258–399 in Rosa Luxemburg, Ausgewählte Reden und Schriften. Berlin: Dietz. → The 1916 edition was published under the pseudonym Junius.

1922–1928 Gesammelte Werke. Vols. 3, 4, and 6. Berlin: Vereinigung Internationaler Verlags-Anstalten. → Volumes 1, 2, and 5 were never published.

(1925) 1951 Einführung in die Nationalokonomie. Volume 1, pages 411–741 in Rosa Luxemburg, Ausgewdhlte Reden und Schriften. Berlin: Dietz.

SUPPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY

Arendt, Hannah 1966 A Heroine of Revolution: [A Book Review of] Rosa Luxemburg, by J. P. Nettl. New York Review of Books 8, no. 5:21-27.

Bukharin, Nikolai I. (1926) 1927 Der Imperialismus und die Akkumulation des Kapitals. Berlin: Verlag fur Literatur und Politik. → First published as Imperialism i nakoplenie kapitala.

Cliff, Tony 1959 Rosa Luxemburg: A Study. International Socialism: Quarterly for Marxist Theory [1959]: no. 2-3.

FrÖlich, Paul (1939) 1940 Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Work. Translated by Edward Fitzgerald. London: Gollancz. → First published in German.

Grossmann, Henryk 1929 Das Akkumulations- und Zusammenbruchsgesetz des kapitalistischen Systems (Zugleich eine Krisentheorie). Leipzig: Hirschfeld.

Laurat, Lucien 1930 L’accumulation du capital d’après Rosa Luxembourg, suivi d’un apergu sur la discussion du problème depuis la mort de Rosa Luxembourg. Paris: Rivière.

Lenin, Vladimir I. (1916) 1964 The Junius Pamphlet. Pages 305–319 in Vladimir I. Lenin, Collected Works. 4th ed. Volume 22: December 1915-July 1916. London : Lawrence & Wishart.

Nettl, John P. 1966 Rosa Luxemburg. 2 vols. Oxford Univ. Press.

Oelssner, Fred 1951 Rosa Luxemburg: Eine kritische biographische Skizze. Berlin: Dietz.

Sternberg, Fritz 1926 Der Imperialismus. Berlin: Malik.

Sternberg, Fritz 1929 Der Imperialismus und seine Kritiker. Berlin: Soziologische Verlagsanstalt.

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Luxemburg, Rosa

Luxemburg, Rosa 1870 or 1871-1919

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Rosa Luxemburg was a Polish Marxist revolutionary as well as the most relevant figure of the left wing of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). Together with Leo Jogiches (18671919), she was the leader of the Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland. Breaking with SPD for its support of World War I (19141918), with Karl Liebknecht (18711919) she founded the Spartacist League (Spartakusbund ), which became in 1918 the German Communist Party (KPD). Luxemburg was killed during the German Revolution of January 1919 by the paramilitary Freikorps, and by the order of the SPD chancellor Friedrich Ebert.

At Zurich University Luxemburg trained in law and economics. Indeed, many of her writings can be seen as an original and undogmatic reprise, critique, and development of Marxist critical political economy. By 1898 she was widely known for her trenchant and astute criticism of the mounting revisionism. In Social Reform or Revolution? (1899), the pamphlet she wrote against fellow SPD member Eduard Bernstein, Luxemburg strongly objected to the idea that capitalism was entering a phase of social and economic stabilization, with the end of class polarization and the attenuation of economic crises. Skeptical about the law of a tendential fall in the profit rate, she nevertheless defended collapse theory, but with too generic a reference to the lack of demand for commodities. She also stressed the essential link between money and value, justifying Marxs notion of abstract labor as a real abstraction that actually comes into being with the unity of production and circulation.

She refined her argument after 1907 when she started teaching economics at the SPD party training center in Berlin. While preparing her lectures (which were posthumously collected in Introduction to Political Economy, 1921) she stumbled upon a difficulty in Marx. Luxemburg stressed what she called the law of the tendential fall of the relative wagethat is, of the share in the new value added that goes to workersas the other side of relative surplus value extraction. In her view, though, the real wage may grow when the productive power of labor rises, the former always lagging behind the latter. Workers consumption is thus decreasing. Hence the question: Can capitalist investments fill the gap, and guarantee the smooth development of capitalist extended reproduction? In the Accumulation of Capital (1913) Luxemburg attacked Marxs schemes of reproduction for promoting the illusion that in a closed setting capitalism can go on as production for the sake of production, and only disproportional crises can occur. Imperialism is seen as the consequence of the need to find new markets in non-capitalist areas. In the end, collapse due to lack of effective demand was certain: To avoid slipping into barbarism, socialist revolution was historically necessary.

She was fiercely attacked by critics who hit some blind spots in her formulation (which was written in haste in a few months) but missed the core of her position, stated most clearly in the Anti-Critique (written in jail in 19161917). Capital must be analyzed first of all as a macro-monetary circuit. Therefore, the issue at stake is that capitalists cannot recover from monetary circulation more than they injected into it, advancing either constant or variable capital. From this theoretical stance, the realization problem opens to the problem of finance as fundamental in a monetary production economy. This does not mean that Luxemburgs view was correct: She discarded the distinction between financial and industrial capital, so her question could not have an answer. But her approach was more farsighted than her critics understood because she opened a new problematic (Bellofiore 2004).

Two interpreters who clearly perceived this were Joan Robinson (1951) and Michal Kalecki (1967). Robinson saw that the key issue in Luxemburg was that accumulation depends on the incentive to invest. Kalecki extended her position, showing that capitalism can find effective demand not only through net exports, but also through state deficit spending financed by the central. However, it must not be forgotten that in the last instance, crises erupt because of relative surplus value extraction: Although it induces a fall in the wage share, it also systematically upsets the conditions of equilibrium for capitalist reproduction, and then provokes disproportions and leads to a general glut. Realization crises are failures to sell products at prices that recoup expected profitability due to inadequate aggregate demand. They are rooted in the dynamics of exploitation within the capitalist labor processes where valorizationthat is, the production of surplus value starting from a given valueimmediately occurs.

Customarily, Luxemburgs position is labeled as determinist and under-consumptionist (which is clearly wrong), and her political perspective is condemned as spontaneist. A convincing rebuttal of this reading was put forward by Norman Geras (1976). What is relevant is Luxemburgs opposition to Lenin. As Rossana Rossanda succinctly states, Luxemburg never maintained that the masses could do without an organized vanguard which, for her, was identified with the party. However, the need for the latter was not derived from the absence of a political dimension of working class struggles as such, but from the objective fragmentation of these struggles, which a unifying strategy could alone overcome (1970, p. 224).

In recent decades, interest in Luxemburg has shifted from discussion about her political, social, and economic thought to her pacifism, her love for nature, and her anticipation of some traits of contemporary feminism (Nye 1994).

SEE ALSO Accumulation of Capital; Economic Crises; Feminism; Imperialism; Kalecki, Michal; Robinson, Joan; Socialism

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bellofiore, Riccardo. 2004. Like a Candle Burning at Both Ends: Rosa Luxemburg and the Critique of Political Economy. Research in Political Economy 21: 279297.

Geras, Norman. 1976. The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg. London:New Left Books.

Hudis, Peter, and Kevin B. Anderson. 2004. The Rosa Luxemburg Reader. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Luxemburg, Rosa. [1913] 2003. The Accumulation of Capital. London: Routledge.

Luxemburg, Rosa. [1921] 1972. The Accumulation of Capital:An Anti-Critique. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Nye, Andrea. 1994. The Thought of Rosa Luxemburg, Simone Weil, and Hannah Arendt. London: Routledge.

Robinson, Joan. 1951. Introduction. In The Accumulation of Capital. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Rossanda, Rossana. 1970. Class and Party. Socialist Register. 217231.

Riccardo Bellofiore

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Rosa Luxemburg

Rosa Luxemburg

Rosa Luxemburg (1870-1919) was a Polish revolutionary and theorist. She led the German workers' uprisings which followed World War I and is considered one of the pioneer activists and foremost martyrs of the international Communist movement.

Rosa Luxemburg was born in Zamo in Russian Poland and brought up in Warsaw. She was the daughter of a middle-class, Polish-speaking Jewish merchant. Dainty, almost tiny, she walked with a limp as the result of a childhood disease.

From her earliest years Rosa possessed "one of the most penetrating analytical minds of her age." In a period when the czarist government was increasing its religious and political oppression in Poland, especially of the Jews, she gained admission to the best girls' high school in Warsaw, usually reserved for Russians. There she joined a revolutionary cell and began a lifelong association with the socialist movement. When she was 18, her activities came to the attention of the Russian secret police, and she fled to Switzerland to avoid arrest.

Luxemburg continued her interests in socialist and revolutionary activities there. She earned a doctorate of laws at the University of Zurich in 1898. Her thesis on industrial development in Poland later served as a basis for the program of the Social Democratic party of Poland. She decided to go to Germany and attach herself to the large, vital, and well-organized Social Democratic party (SPD). In Berlin she obtained German citizenship through a fictitious marriage and quickly became one of the most effective, respected, and even beloved leaders of the international socialist movement.

With Karl Kautsky, Luxemburg headed the revisionist wing of the SPD in opposition to its major theorist, Eduard Bernstein. She wrote articles in socialist newspapers increasingly critical of Bernstein's political and economic theories. Gradually, in a series of works published before the outbreak of World War I, she drifted apart from Kautsky and established herself as the acknowledged leader of the left, or revolutionary, wing of the SPD. She gave new life and theoretical form to the revolutionary goals of the party in a period when most factions were oriented toward parliamentary reform.

During World War I Luxemburg, now dubbed the "Red Rose" by police, was imprisoned for her revolutionary activities. Released for a short time in 1916, she helped to found the revolutionary Spartacus Union with Karl Liebknecht. When she again emerged from prison, in 1918, dissatisfied with the failure to effect a thoroughgoing socialist revolution in Germany, she helped to found the German Communist party (KPD) and its newspaper, the Rote Fahne, and drafted its program. She and Liebknecht urged revolution against the Ebert government, which came to power after the armistice, and were largely responsible for the wave of strikes, riots, and violence which swept across Germany from the end of 1918 until June 1919.

In January 1919 one of the most violent outbreaks occurred in Berlin. Luxemburg and Liebknecht, in spite of their doubts as to the timing, supported the Berlin workers in their call for revolution. The troops that were called in acted with extreme violence and brutality, crushing the revolt in a few days. On January 15 Liebknecht and Luxemburg were caught and murdered by the soldiers who held them prisoner.

Further Reading

A good study of Rosa Luxemburg in English is the abridged version of J. P. Nettl, Rosa Luxemburg (1966). Nettl presents an exhaustive, scholarly analysis of her life, work, and influence. A shorter but older and more partisan treatment is Paul Frölich, Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Work (trans. 1940). Luxemburg is discussed in the personal account of Bertram D. Wolfe, Strange Communists I Have Known (1965).

Additional Sources

Abraham, Richard, Rosa Luxemburg: a life for the International, Oxford England; New York: Berg; New York: Distributed excusively in the US and Canada by St. Martin's Press, 1989.

Bronner, Stephen Eric, A revolutionary for our times: Rosa Luxemburg, London: Pluto Press, 1981; New York: Columbia University Press, 1987.

Ettinger, Elzbieta, Rosa Luxemburg: a life, Boston: Beacon Press, 1986.

Luxemburg, Rosa, Comrade and lover: Rosa Luxemburg's Letters to Leo Jogiches, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1979.

Nettl, J. P., Rosa Luxemburg, New York: Schocken Books: Distributed by Pantheon Books, 1989, 1969.

Shepardson, Donald E., Rosa Luxemburg and the noble dream, New York: P. Lang, 1995. □

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Luxemburg, Rosa

Rosa Luxemburg (rō´zä lŏŏk´səmbŏŏrk), 1871–1919, German revolutionary, b. Russian Poland. Her revolutionary activities forced her to flee to Switzerland in 1889, where she became a Marxist. One of the founders of the Polish Socialist party (1892), she formed (1894) a splinter group (later known as the Social Democratic party of Poland and Lithuania). Acquiring German citizenship through marriage, after 1898 she was a leader in the German Social Democratic party (SPD). She opposed Bernstein's moderate socialism, insisting on the overthrow of capitalism. However, she disagreed with Lenin on the composition of the revolutionary classes, while anticipating his formulation on imperialism. She participated in the revolution of 1905 in Russian Poland and was active in the Second International, working with Lenin to demand socialist opposition to war, while using it for revolution. Opposing the SPD's support for the war, she formed the German Spartacus party with Karl Liebknecht. In protective custody during much of the war and released in 1918 upon the outbreak of the German revolution, she aided in the transformation of the Spartacists into the German Communist party and edited its organ, Rote Fahne. Critical of Lenin in his triumph, she foresaw his dictatorship over the proletariat becoming permanent. For their part in the Spartacist uprising in Berlin, she and Liebknecht were arrested (Jan., 1919). While being taken to prison they were killed by soldiers.

See her Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, ed. with an introd. by M. A. Waters (1970) and The National Question, ed. and tr. by H. B. Davis (1976); and biographies by J. P. Nettl (1966, abr. ed. 1989), P. Frölich (tr. 1970), S. Bonner (1987), and E. Ettinger (1987).

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Luxemburg, Rosa

Luxemburg, Rosa (1871–1919) Though born in Poland, Luxemburg is best known as a leading theorist and political leader in the German working-class movement. She vigorously opposed the revisionist current in the German Social Democratic Party, and was imprisoned for her opposition to the First World War. After the war she supported the Russian Revolution, but was sharply critical of the Bolshevik suppression of popular democracy. Her major theoretical work, The Accumulation of Capital (1913), argued that imperialist expansion was necessitated by capitalism's dependence on a non-capitalist ‘third market’. The global triumph of capitalist expansion would also mark its final breakdown. Luxemburg played a leading part in the revolutionary upheaval in Germany which followed the end of the war. She was arrested by army officers in Berlin and clubbed to death by soldiers on her way to prison.

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Luxemburg, Rosa

Luxemburg, Rosa (1871–1919) German socialist leader, b. Poland. She was an active revolutionary and anti-nationalist in Russian Poland before acquiring German citizenship by marriage. She founded the radical left-wing Spartacist League in 1916 with Karl Liebknecht. Both she and Liebknecht are thought to have been murdered while under arrest in 1919.

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