Rosa Luxemberg’s Bourgeois Dialectical Errors

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SPD Party School, Berlin (1907): Rosa Luxemburg ( standing left), Wilhelm Pieck (seated to right of Luxemburg) and Friedrich Ebert (third row back on left-hand side of right row)

Rosa Luxemberg (1871-1919) was murdered on the orders of her former student – Friedrich Ebert. Friedrich Ebert had become the first President of the Weimar Republic following Imperial Germany’s defeat at the end of WW1, and in so doing, aligned himself with the rightwing of German politics. Prior to its defeat against the UK in November of 1918, Imperial Germany had deployed troops into Revolutionary Russia (alongside the USA, UK and 11 other countries), with the objective of destroying the Bolshevik Movement, and capturing or killing its leaders. It is a bitter irony that whilst British and German troops continued to follow orders and kill one another in France, a completely different set of orders (issued by exactly the same military and political authorities), demanded that British and German troops fought on the same side in an international effort to crush Soviet Socialism. Although Rosa Luxemberg opposed Germany’s participation in WW1, she remained unusually ‘quiet’ about German troops invading and attempting to destroy Revolutionary Russia in 1918.

The problem regarding Rosa Luxemberg appears to stem from her misreading of Marx and Engels, and her ‘rigid’ alignment with the Second ‘Socialist’ International which advocated (to a certain degree) a co-operation between Socialist Revolutionary forces and the existing Bourgeois State. In this regard, Rosa Luxemberg’s ideas were more ‘bourgeois’ friendly, than Socialist Revolutionary, as she spoke with the attitude of a fully empowered bourgeois individual. Rosa Luxemberg mistakenly assumed that the oppressed Working Class possessed the same bourgeois education and access to social and political institutions that she did, and that all the Working Class had to do was to ‘realise’ this apparently ‘hidden’ or ‘latent’ power. Of course, such mistaken ideas as this have more in-common with bourgeois ‘mysticism’ and ‘religion’, than with the historical materialism of Karl Marx, and firmly demonstrates Rosa Luxemberg’s thoroughly ‘bourgeois’ approach to politics. Although a woman, Rosa Luxemberg behaved with a typical (and ‘dictatorial’) paternalistic attitude. The fact that she was eventually murdered by one of her ‘bourgeois’ students only serves to highlight the reality of this interpretation.

Rosa Luxemberg hated Lenin and despised his Bolshevik Movement. Rosa Luxemberg also detested the Russian Revolution of 1917, and it is true to say that she dedicated her political activity to a continuous effort of undermining its success and hard-established power-base. Rosa Luxemberg, preempting Trotsky’s eventual treachery, utilised a corrupting bourgeois rhetoric designed to dominate and mislead the oppressed Working Class at the point of contact. One example of this rhetoric can be found in Rosa Luxemberg’s Neue Zeit Journal article of July, 1904, within which she denounces Lenin’s insistence of what she termed ‘ultra-centralism’. Working from her liberal, bourgeois ideals, Rosa Luxemberg misinterpreted Lenin’s concept of proletariat ‘centralised democracy’, with that of bourgeois bureaucracy and bourgeois dictatorship. In many ways, Rosa Luxemberg’s bourgeois attitudes laid the theoretical foundation of what would become ‘Trotskyism’, and provided the US with an ideological method to ‘criticise’ the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Rosa Luxemberg was a bourgeois reactionary exercising pretensions of leftwing revolutionary activity. Her opposition to the Bolsheviks demonstrated not an advanced proletariat mind-set at work, but rather that of a privileged ‘White’ middle class woman ‘playing’ at being a Socialist Revolutionary’. In the same article there is evidence that Rosa Luxemberg had thoroughly ‘ingested’ anti-Russian, or anti-Slavic German attitudes, as she again misinterpreted Lenin’s ‘internationalist’ and ‘proletariat’ attitude as being typically ‘Russian’ in nature, referring to Lenin as expressing ‘Russian absolutism’. Writing as she was from a distinctly ‘bourgeois’ perspective, it is laughable that Rosa Luxemberg accused Lenin of turning the revolutionary struggle upon its head! When Lenin and the Bolsheviks finally came to power, Rosa Luxemberg’s opinions were thoroughly discredited, but they still have a certain currency amongst the Trotskyite left, or those feminists who mistake middle class privilege for female emancipation.

Reference:

The Bolshevik Revolution (1917-1923) Vol I (1950): By ER Carr – Page 34.

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