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Rosa Luxemburg

(1871 - 1919)

Luxemburg was born in Russian-controlled Poland in 1871. She began her revolutionary activities by the age of sixteen and, in 1889, she was requested to leave Poland because of her political affiliations. She moved to Switzerland to finish her studies at the University of Zurich.

Luxemburg became a journalist in 1894 and, by that time, she was already considered one of the leaders of the Social Democratic Party in Poland and Lithuania. She was a supporter of revolution and a defender of Marxist theories.

In 1899, she published Reform or Revolution, a critique of Edward Bernstein's Evolutionary Socialism. While Bernstein tried to disprove the idea of class struggle, Luxemburg embraced the cause and, like Marx, she called for a revolution.

She became a German citizen in 1898 through marriage, and became a leader of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). Luxemburg's very left-wing views were not always approved of by the SPD.

In 1905, Luxemburg helped support the Russian Revolution and became even more radical in her views of Socialism. In 1912, she published The Accumulation of Capital, in which she predicted the inevitable failure of a capitalist society. Her views conflicted so much with the Social Democratic Party that, in 1916, Luxemburg started the Spartacus League with Karl Liebknecht. The party was converted into the German Communist Party in 1918.

In 1919, Luxemburg joined in the uprising against the government in Berlin. She and Liebknecht were arrested on January 15, 1919, for their revolutionary activities. While being transported to prison, Luxemburg was murdered by the German Freikorps and thrown into a ditch.

Luxemburg was honored after her death not only by the large attendance at her public funeral, but also by the publication of a collection of her articles and essays. Her works, however, were not well-received by the Communist Party because of her dismissal of national unity and her promotion of reformation and revolution. Luxemburg's publication was not widely read until the 1970s, fifty years after her death.

Today, Rosa Luxemburg is remembered as a supporter of women's liberation. She is not identified with Socialism or Communism, but her views are seen as a substitute ideology. She rose against the corrupt governments in Germany and Russia, and she is remembered today for her unconventional and persuasive ideas, as well as her courage in the face of the German right wing parties.

Sources: Books and Writers