Zündende Funke: The Spark Lights Up in Action

Rosa Luxemburg’s Philosophy of Praxis

There seems to exist a secret complicity between the rediscovery of Rosa Luxemburg and rebellious times. The last period when her life and writings raised much interest was in the 1960s and 70s, during the “street-fighting years” (Tariq Ali’s expression). Could the recent publication of several of her works, in many parts of the world, be the sign of a new “critical” epoch? In the English speaking world, the good news is the project of publishing The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg in fourteen volumes, five of which only with her correspondence.

      One of the reasons for this interest may be the fact that she was able, as few other Marxists of the 20[th] century, to unite democracy and revolution. This is not without relation to what I would call Rosa Luxemburg’s philosophy of praxis, which she once summarized with Goethe’s famous dictum Anfang war die Tat — Action is at the beginning of all. This is the red thread that runs throughout her political writings. As we will try to show, it directly shapes her views on the relationship between consciousness and struggle, on the undecided historical future — “socialism or barbarism” — and on revolutionary democracy. Her main inspiration is Marx himself, and in particular his Theses on Feuerbach (1845).

      When Friedrich Engels posthumously published, in 1888, Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach he commented: this is “the first document where the brilliant kernel of a new world-view is written down.” Indeed, one can consider this short and dense piece as Marx’s first attempt at a dialectical Aufhebung — negation/conservation/supersession — of previous materialism and idealism, and the beginning of a new theory, which one could designate — to use Gramsci’s formula — as philosophy of praxis. While the French materialists of the XVIIIth century insisted on the need to first transform the material circumstances in order to change the individual human beings, the German idealists believed that, thanks to a change in consciousness among the individuals, society would be transformed. Against these two one-sided views, which led to a political dead end — and the search for a “Great Educator” or a Supreme Savior — Marx asserted, in Thesis III: “The coincidence of the change in the circumstances and of human activity can only be rationally conceived and understood as subversive practice (umwälzende Praxis)”[1]. In other words: in revolutionary practice, in the emancipating collective action, the historical subject — the subaltern classes — transform at the same time the material conditions and their own consciousness. This means that revolutionary self-emancipation is the only way for liberation: it is only by its own praxis, by its experience in action, that the oppressed can change their consciousness, at the same time as they subvert the power of the ruling classes. One can follow this idea, like a red thread, throughout Marx’s political writings, from the German Ideology (1846) and the Communist Manifesto (1848) to the Inaugural Address of the First International (1864): “the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves.”

      Few Marxists of the 20[th] century were nearer to the spirit of Marx’s philosophy of praxis than Rosa Luxemburg. Sure, she didn’t write philosophical texts, but she was able to interpret Marxist theory in an original and creative way. The revolutionary philosophy of praxis is a sort of electric current that runs through her work and life. However, her thinking was far from being static: it was a reflection in movement, which was enriched by historical experience. We will try to grasp her intellectual evolution through some examples.

      One could say that her writings are tensioned by two opposite poles: I) historical determinism, the inevitability of the final collapse of capitalism; II) voluntarism, the decisive role of emancipative action. This applies particularly to her first writings, before 1914, Reform or Revolution? (1899), the book through which she became known in the German and International labor movement, is a good example of this ambivalence. Against Bernstein’s revisionism, she insisted that the evolution of capitalism leads necessarily to the collapse (Zusammenbruch) of the system, and that this collapse is the historical road leading to the accomplishment of socialism. We have here, in last analysis, a socialist variant of the ideology of inevitable progress that dominated Western culture since the Enlightenment. What saves her argument from fatalistic economism is the revolutionary pedagogy of action: “it is only through long and stubborn struggles that the proletariat will conquer the degree of political maturity that will permit it to achieve the definitive victory of revolution.”[2]


      Such a dialectical view of education by the struggle is also one of the main weapons of her polemic with Lenin on the organizational issues of Russian Social-democracy (1904): “The proletarian army is recruited and becomes aware of its objectives in the course of the struggle itself. The activity of the party organization, the growth of the proletarian’s awareness of the aims of the struggle and the struggle itself, are not different things separated chronologically and mechanically. They are different aspects of the same process.”[3]

      Of course, acknowledges Rosa Luxemburg, the class may err, but, in the last analysis “the errors committed by a truly revolutionary workers’ movement are historically infinitely more fruitful and more precious than the infallibility of the best ‘Central Committee.’” The self-emancipation of the oppressed requires the self-transformation of the revolutionary class by its own practical experience; this experience produces not only consciousness — a classic topic of Marxism — but also will:

"The historical/universal (Weltgeschichtlich) proletarian for the first time since civilized society exists, the masses of the people can impose their will (Willen), consciously and against all ruling classes (…) Now, the masses cannot conquer and reinforce this will otherwise than in the daily struggle with the established order, i.e., in the limits of this order."[4]

      One could compare Lenin’s vision with Luxemburg’s through the following image: for Vladimir Ilyitch, editor of the newspaper Iskra, the revolutionary spark is brought by the organized political vanguard, from outside the proletarian spontaneous struggles; for the Jewish/Polish revolutionary, the spark of revolutionary consciousness lights up in the struggle, in mass action. It is true that her conception of the party as the organic expression of the class corresponds more to the situation in Germany than to that in Russia or Poland, where there existed already several parties that claimed to represent the socialist program.

      The revolutionary events of 1905 in Russia will strongly reinforce Rosa Luxemburg’s conviction that the rise of class-consciousness among working masses results less from the pedagogical activity — Aufklärung is the term she uses — of the party than from the direct and autonomous experience of the toilers:

"The sudden general proletarian uprising in January, provoked by the events in St. Petersburg, was, in its outside action, a revolutionary political act, a declaration of war to absolutism. But this first general and direct class struggle had an even more powerful effect on the inside, by waking up, for the first time, as through an electric shock (einen elektrischen Schlag), the class feelings and consciousness among millions and millions of individuals (…). It is by the proletariat that absolutism in Russia will be overthrown. But the proletarian needs for this task a high degree of political education, class-consciousness and organization. He cannot learn all this in pamphlets and tracts, his education will be achieved in the living political school, in the struggle and by the struggle, in the course of the advancing revolution."[5]

      The polemical reference to “pamphlets and tracts” seems to underestimate the importance of revolutionary theory in the process; on the other hand, Rosa Luxemburg’s political activity, which consisted, to a large extent, in writing articles and brochures — not to speak of her substantial theoretical works in the field of political economy — bears witness, without any doubt, to the decisive significance which she attributed to theoretical work and political polemics in the process of preparing the revolution.

      In this celebrated pamphlet from 1906 on the mass strike, she still uses some classical determinist arguments: revolution will take place “according to the necessity of a natural law.” But her concrete vision of the revolutionary process has a quite different emphasis: no revolution without revolutionary consciousness — something that can only become generalized in the course of a “practical” movement: the “massive” transformation of the oppressed into historical subjects can take place only through the revolutionary struggle itself. The category of praxis — which is, for her as for Marx, the dialectical unity between the objective and the subjective, the mediation through which the class in itself becomes class for itself — permits her to overcome the paralyzing and metaphysical dilemma of German Social-democracy, between Bernstein’s abstract Kantian moralism and Kautsky’s economistic mechanism: while the first asserted that the “subjective,” moral and spiritual, change of the individuals is the condition for the accomplishment of social justice, the second believed that the objective economic evolution would “inevitably” lead to socialism. In fact, Rosa Luxemburg was opposed not only to the neo-Kantian revisionists, but also, increasingly after 1905, to the strategy of passive “attentism” defended by the so-called “orthodox center” of the Party.

      Thanks to this dialectical conception of praxis she was also able to supersede the traditional dualism enshrined in the SPD’s Erfurt Program, between reforms, or the “minimum program,” and revolution, or “the final aim.” By the strategy of mass strike in Germany that she proposes in 1906 — against the trade-union bureaucracy — and in 1910 — against Karl Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg points to a method able to transform economic struggles or the fight for universal suffrage into a general revolutionary movement.

      Unlike Lenin, who distinguishes “trade-unionist consciousness,” from “social-democratic (i.e. socialist) consciousness”, she suggests a distinction between the latent theoretical consciousness, characteristic of the labor movement during the periods of bourgeois parliamentarian hegemony, and the practical and active consciousness, which emerges in the course of the revolutionary process, when the masses themselves — and not only the Party’s parliamentarians and leaders — appear in the political scene ; it is thanks to this practical-active consciousness that the less organized and politically more backward layers of the class can become, in a period of revolutionary struggle, the most radical elements. From these premises follows her critique of the exaggerated estimations of the role of organization in class struggle — usually complemented by an underestimation of the un-organized proletariat — forgetting the pedagogic role of revolutionary struggle: “Six months of revolution make more for the education of these unusually un-organized masses than ten years of public meetings and tract distribution.”[6]

      Was therefore Rosa Luxemburg a partisan of spontaneousness? Not quite…in the pamphlet we are discussing — “General Strike, Party and Trade-unions” (1906) — she insists, referring herself to Germany, that the task of the “most enlightened vanguard” is not to wait “with fatalism,” that the spontaneous popular movement “falls from heaven.” On the contrary, the function of this vanguard is precisely to “forestall (Vorauseilen) the course of events to try to precipitate it.” She believes that the socialist party should take the political direction of the mass strike, which consists in “providing the German proletariat in the coming period of struggles with tactics and aims”; she goes as far as to proclaim that the socialist organization is “the vanguard of all the working masses” and that the “labor movement takes its strength, its unity its political consciousness from this same organization.”[7]

     This “vanguardist” approach is even more obvious if one considers her Polish organization, the SDKPiL: this clandestine and revolutionary party resembled much more the Bolshevik Party than the German SPD .… Another aspect, usually ignored, should also be taken into account: Rosa Luxemburg’s attitude towards the International — particularly after 1914 — that she conceived as a centralized and disciplined world party. For instance, in the “Outlines on the Tasks of the International Social-Democracy,” which she annexed to the Junius brochure (1916) she writes:

3. The center (Schwergewicht) of the class organization of the proletariat lies in the International. The International decides in times of peace on the tactic of the national sections on issues such as militarism, the colonial policy, the commercial policy, the First May celebrations, and on the whole tactic in a situation of war.

4. The duty to implement the decisions of the International has priority over all other organizational duties. National sections that act against those decisions put themselves outside of the International.[8]

      By an irony of history one will find, in a letter concerning this document, addressed by Karl Liebknecht to his friend and comrade, similar criticisms as those directed by her ten years earlier than Lenin: she had, in his viewpoint, an excessively “centralist-mechanical” conception of the International, with “too much ‘discipline,’ too little spontaneity,” and considering the masses “too much as instruments of action, not as bearers of will; as instruments of actions wished and decided by the International, not as wished and decided by themselves .”[9]

      Parallel to this activist voluntarism, the optimistic (economic) determinism of the Zusammenbruch theory, the inevitable crumbling down of capitalism, victim of its own contradictions, doesn’t disappear from her writings; quite the contrary: it is a central argument in her great economic work, The Accumulation of Capital (1911). It is only after the catastrophe of 1914 — the Great World War and the support of Socialist Parties, in Germany and in most other European countries, to “national defense” — that this traditional vision, shared by the whole socialist movement since the end of the 19[th] century, will be challenged. The key document of this change is her pamphlet “The crisis of Social-Democracy” written in prison in 1915 and published in Switzerland in January, 1916 with the pseudonym Junius. This document, known as the Junius brochure, is, thanks to the image “socialism or barbarism,” a turning point in the history of Marxist thought.

      Curiously, her argument begins with a reference to the “unchanging laws of history”; for sure, she acknowledges that proletarian action “contributes to determine history,” but she seems to believe that it is only an issue of accelerating or retarding the historical process. So far, nothing new! But in the following lines she compares the victory of the proletariat with “a jump that takes humanity from the animal realm to the kingdom of freedom,” adding that this jump will not be possible if “from the material premises accumulated by the evolution doesn’t jump the incendiary spark (zündende Funke) of the conscious will of the great popular mass.” One finds here the famous Iskra, the spark of revolutionary zeal that is able to explode the dry powder of the material conditions. But what is it that generates this zündende Funke? It is only through “a long series of confrontations” that “the international proletariat can achieve its education under the leadership of social-democracy and try to take in its hand its own history.”[10] In other words: it is the practical experience that lights up the spark of revolutionary consciousness among the oppressed and exploited.

      By introducing in the next page the expression socialism or barbarism, Junius refers to the authority of Engels, in a writing published “forty years ago” — doubtless a reference to the Anti-Dühring (1878): “Friedrich Engels said once: ‘bourgeois society is confronted with a dilemma: either passage to socialism or regression to barbarism.’”[11] In fact, what Engels writes is quite different: “The productive forces generated by the modern capitalist mode of production, as well as the system of goods distribution which it created, entered in open contradiction with the mode of production itself, and this to such a degree that a radical change of the mode of production and distribution becomes necessary, if one doesn’t wish to see the whole modern society perish.”[12]


Engels’ argument — essentially economic and not political, unlike Junius — is rather rhetorical, a sort of demonstration by the absurd of the necessity of socialism, if one wants to avoid the “perishing” of modern society — a vague formulation whose meaning is not very obvious. In fact, it is Rosa Luxemburg who invented, in the strong sense of the word, the expression “socialism or barbarism,” which will have such a large impact on leftist thought during the 20[th] century. If she quotes Engels, it is probably in order to try to give more legitimacy to her quite heterodox thesis. Obviously, it is the World War, and the capitulation of the international labor movement in August, 1914, that stimulated this new approach.

      In the following paragraphs Junius will develop her innovative standpoint: “We are confronted today with this choice: either the triumph of imperialism and the decadence of all civilization, and, as by consequence, as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration, a great cemetery; or the victory of socialism, i.e. the conscious struggle of the international proletariat against imperialism and its method of action: war. This is a dilemma for the world history: an either-or still undecided, in a balance whose pans tremble and hesitate, waiting for the decision of the conscious proletariat.”[13]

      One can discuss on the meaning of the concept of “barbarism”: it seems to refer to a modern, “civilized” barbarism, as Junius suggests by writing: “This World War — that is a regression (Rückfall) to barbarism” (but in this case the comparison with ancient Rome is not very pertinent); in that sense the Junius brochure revealed itself to be prophetic: German fascism, the supreme manifestation of a modern barbarism, was able to triumph thanks to the defeat of socialism in 1918-23. However, the most important word in the formula “socialism or barbarism” is the term or: this means the recognition that history is an open process, that the future is not yet decided — by the “laws” of history or of economy — but depends, in last analysis, on “subjective” factors: consciousness, decision, will, initiative, action, revolutionary praxis. It is true that one can find in the Junius brochure — as well as in her later writings — references to the inevitable collapse of capitalism, thanks to the “dialectics of history,” as well as to the “historical necessity of socialism.”[14] But in last analysis, the thesis “socialism or barbarism” laid the ground for a different conception of the “dialectics of history,” distinct from economic determinism and the Enlightenment ideology of inevitable Progress.

      We find again Rosa Luxemburg’s philosophy of praxis at the heart of the 1918 essay on the Russian Revolution — another key text written behind the prison bars. The essential message of this document is well known: on one side, support for the Bolsheviks and their leaders, Lenin and Trotsky, who saved the honor of international socialism, by daring to initiate the October Revolution; on the other hand, a series of critiques, some of which — on the agrarian and the national question — are quite problematic, while others — the chapter on democracy — appear as prophetic. What worried the Jewish/Polish/German revolutionary was above all the suppression, by the Bolsheviks, of the democratic freedoms — freedom of press, of association, of assembly — which are precisely the guarantee for the political activity of the working masses; without those freedoms “the domination of the large popular layers is perfectly unthinkable.” The gigantic tasks of the transition to socialism, “to which the Bolsheviks embarked with courage and determination,” cannot be accomplished unless “the masses receive a very intensive political education and accumulate experiences,” which is not possible without democratic freedoms. The construction of a new society is a virgin land which raises a “thousand problems”; now, “only the experience permits to correct and to open new roads.” Socialism is a historical product “generated (geboren) by the school itself of experience”: all the popular masses (Volksmassen) must participate in this experience, otherwise “socialism is decreed, bestowed (oktroyiert) by a handful of intellectuals assembled around a green table.” There will inevitably be errors in the process of transition, but the only remedy to them is revolutionary practice:

"revolution itself and its renewal principle, the intellectual life, the activity and self-responsibility (Selbstverantwortung) of the masses that it stimulates, in one word, the revolution under the form of the largest political freedom is the only sun that saves and purifies."[15]

      This argument is much more important than the one about the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, which became the main focus of the “Leninist” objections to her criticism. Luxemburg’s main point was that without democratic freedoms, the popular self-education by experience, the self-emancipation of the oppressed, and the exercise of power itself by the laboring classes are impossible. It should be said however that there is a certain tension in this essay on the Russian Revolution between her commitment to democracy and her categorical refusal — in the name of internationalism — of the right of nations to self-determination. After all, the possibility for a national community to choose its own destiny, to decide between unity, federation, or separation is also a basic democratic right.


György Lukacs, in his important essay “Rosa Luxemburg Marxist” (January, 1921) — integrated in his book History and Class Consciousness (1923) — shows, with great acumen, how, thanks to the dialectical unity between theory and praxis — first formulated by Marx in his Theses on Feuerbach — she was able to overcome the “dilemma of powerlessness (Ohnmacht)” of the social-democratic movements,

"the dilemma between the fatalism of pure laws and the ethics of pure intentions. What is the meaning of this dialectics? The same way as the proletariat as a class can only conquer and keep its class consciousness, and elevate itself to the level of its — objectively given — historical task, through combat and action, the party and the individual militants cannot really appropriate themselves of their theory if they are not able to integrate (hineinzutragen) this unity in their praxis."[16]

      It is therefore surprising that, just one year later, he wrote another essay — which will also become part of the volume History and Class Consciousness — under the title “Critical comments on Rosa Luxemburg’s critique of the Russian revolution,” which rejects out of hand all her arguments about the Bolsheviks’ policies. According to Lukacs, she “represents herself the proletarian revolution under the structural form of the bourgeois revolutions” — a very unlikely accusation.[17] How to explain the difference, in tone and content, between the essay of January, 1921 and the one of January, 1922? A sudden conversion to orthodox Leninism? Perhaps, but another explanation could be to relate Lukacs’ attitude to the debates inside the German Communist Party, to which he was very near in those years. In March, 1921 there took place an adventurous Communist attempt at uprising, which Lukacs supported with enthusiasm (but not so Lenin…). Paul Levi, at that time one of the main leaders of the KPD, publicly opposed the “March, 1921 Action”; excluded by the Party he decided to publish, in 1922, Rosa Luxemburg’s notes on the Russian revolution, which her friend had confided to him in 1918. Lukacs’ polemics with this document is also, indirectly, a settling of accounts with Paul Levi.

      The truth of the matter is that the chapter on democracy in Rosa Luxemburg’s essay on the Russian Revolution is one of the most important documents of Marxism, Communism, Critical Theory and revolutionary thinking in the 20th century. It is difficult to imagine a refoundation of socialism in the 21st century without taking into account the arguments developed in those feverish pages. The most lucid representatives of Leninism and Trotskyism such as Ernest Mandel or Daniel Bensaïd recognized that her critique of Bolshevism in 1918, concerning the issue of the democratic freedoms, was perfectly legitimate and justified.

      The zündende Funke, Rosa Luxemburg’s burning spark, shone one last time in December, 1918, in her speech at the Founding Conference of the KPD (Spartakus Bund) — the new German Communist Party (Spartacus League). It is true that one still finds in this document references to the “law of the objective and necessary development of the socialist revolution,” but in reality she is speaking here of “the bitter experience” which the labor movement has to go through in order to find the revolutionary road. The last words of this memorable conference are directly inspired by the viewpoint of the oppressed self-emancipative praxis:

"It is by exercising power that the masses learn to exercise power. There is no other way to teach them. Happily enough, we have left behind the time where one was supposed to teach socialism to the proletariat. This time apparently is not yet gone by for the Marxists of Kautsky’s school. Educate the proletarian masses, that meant for them: to make speeches, distribute tracts and pamphlets. No, the socialist school of the proletarians has no need of all that. Their education takes place when they seize action (zur Tat greifen)."

      Here Rosa Luxemburg will quote Goethe’s famous phrase Am Anfang war die Tat! (At the beginning of everything was not the Verb but Action!) In her own words : “At the beginning was Action, this is our motto; and action, is when the workers’ and soldiers’ councils feel called to become the only public power in the country and learn to be it.”[18] A few days later, Rosa Luxemburg was murdered by the Freikorps — right-wing paramilitary bands — mobilized by the social-democratic government, under the direct initiative of Minister Gustav Noske, against the Berlin workers’ uprising.


Rosa Luxemburg was not an infallible leader; she made mistakes, as every human being and every political militant, and her ideas do not make up a closed theoretical system, a dogmatic doctrine that could be applied at all places and all times. But without doubt her thinking is a precious toolbox to try to dismantle the capitalist machinery and to search for radical alternatives. Her conception of socialism at the same time revolutionary and democratic — in irreconcilable opposition with capitalism and imperialist expansion — founded on the self-emancipative praxis of the workers, on the self-education by experience and by action of the great popular masses, is still extraordinarily relevant. Socialism in the 21st century cannot make it without the light of this blazing spark.


1. Marx, Thesen über Feuerbach , in Marx, Engels, Die deutsche Ideologie, Berlin, Dietz Verlag, 1960, 584.
2. Rosa Luxemburg, Reforme ou Révolution? 1899 in Œuvres, I, Paris, Maspero, 1969, 79.
3. Rosa Luxemburg, Selected Political Writings, edited and introduced by Robert Looker, tr. William D.Graf (London, Jonathan Cape) 98.
4. Cf. Rosa Luxemburg, Organisationsfragen der russischen Sozialdemokratie (1904), in Die Russische Revolution, Hrsg. Ossip K. Flechtheim, Frankfurt, Europäische Verlaganstalt, 1963, 27-28, 42, 44.
5. R. Luxemburg, Massenstreik, Partei und Gewerkschaften in Gewerkschaftskampf und Massenstreik, Eingeleitet und Bearbeitet von Paul Frölich, Berlin, Vereinigung Internationaler Verlagsanstalten, Berlin, 1928, 426-427.. This book contains not only the well known 1906 brochure on the mass strike, but various other articles by Rosa Luxemburg on the same topic. It was compiled and prefaced by her gifted disciple and biographer Paul Frölich, who was excluded from the German Communist Party in the 1920’s. I found the book at a second hand bookshop in Tel-Aviv ; the copy had a seal: Kibutz Ein Harod, Hasifria Hamerkazit, Haseminarion Harayoni (Central Library, Seminar of Ideas). The owner of the book was probably a Leftist German Jew who emigrated to Palestine after 1933, and gave it to the library of the kibbutz which he or she joined. For some years, there were lively ideological debates in a seminar of the kibbutz, and Rosa Luxemburg was probably one of the references. After the death of the older kibbutzniks, since the new generation doesn’t read German — and probably has less interest in Marxist theory — the librarian sold to a used-books shop his stock of works in Marx’s language… Part of the history of the Israeli Left is summarized in this seal.
6. Ibid, 455-457.
7. Ibid. 147, 150.
8. R.Luxemburg, Anhang : Leitsätze über die Aufgaben der Internatgionale Sozialdemokratie , in Die Krise der Sozialdemokratie von Junius, Bern, Unionsdruckerei, 1916, 97
9. See K. Liebknecht, “A Rosa Luxemburg: Remarques à propos de son projet de thèses pour le groupe ‘Internationale,’” in Partisans, no. 45, January 1969, 113.
10. Rosa Luxemburg, Die Krise der Sozialdemokratie von Junius, Bern, Unionsdruckerei, 1916, p.11. This copy of the original edition of the book belonged to my teacher and PhD director Lucien Goldmann, and was generously given to me, after his untimely death, by his wife, Annie Goldmann. Lucien Goldmann belonged in his youth to the Left Zionist movement Hashomer Hatzair, before joining the Rumanian Communist Youth, from which he was soon excluded for “Trotskyist tendencies.” After settling in France, he became a leading scholar in Marxist sociology of culture.
11. Rosa Luxemburg, Die Krise der Sozialdemokratie, 11..
12. Engels, Anti-Dühring, Paris, Ed. Sociales, 1950, 189, emphasis mine — ML..
13. Ibid., 68.
14. See Isabel Loureiro, Rosa Luxemburg. Os dilemas da açâo revolucionaria, S.Paulo, Unesp, 1995, 123.
15. Die Russische Revolution, Frankfurt, Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 1963, 73-76.
16. G. Lukacs, Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein (1923), Nwied, Luchterhand, 1968, 212, 216.
17. Ibid. 460.
18. Rosa Luxemburg, “Rede zum Programm der KPD (Spartakusbund)”, Ausgewählten Reden und Schriften, Berlin, Dietz Verlag, 1953, Band II, p. 687. The copy which I’m using here has a curious history. It is a selection of writings by Rosa Luxemburg published by the Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin Institut beim ZK der SED , with a preface by Wilhelm Pieck, the Stalinist leader of the GDR, followed by introductions of Lenin and Stalin, emphasizing the various “errors” of the Jewish/Polish/German revolutionary. I bought this copy in a used bookshop in Tel-Aviv, and discovered that it had a handwritten dedication with the following words: “Sorry, we couldn’t find an edition of R.L. Works without this superfluous ‘introduction.’ With kindest regards, Tamara and Isaac. Throttle Green, 25 August 1957.” Obviously, the authors of the inscription were Tamara and Isaac Deutscher. I couldn’t find the name of the recipient, but it is interesting that Rosa Luxemburg was the link between the Deutschers — quintessential “non-Jewish Jews” — and their Israeli correspondent. The reasons why the book ended in the shop are probably similar to those of the Frölich collection mentioned above.

About Author

Michael Löwy, born in Brazil, has lived in Paris since 1969. At present, he is emeritus research director in social sciences at the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique). Last publication in English: The Theory of Revolution in the Young Marx (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2005).

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