The name Rosa Luxemburg (1871 – 1919) is synonymous with a commitment to the principles of democratic socialism. Born in 1871, she was an inspirational representative of democratic socialistic thought and activity in Europe. Along with Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg was a prominent advocate for democracy, international socialism and anti-war policies in the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany). Her passionate and persuasive criticism of capitalism strengthened her resolve to force change through revolutionary means. While the Russian revolution filled her with hope, as a revolutionary democrat she remained vigilant and critical of ensuing developments and the Bolshevik dictatorship.
Born in Poland, the daughter of a Jewish merchant, Rosa Luxemburg completed her schooling in Warsaw and in 1889 she fled to Switzerland via Germany when threatened with arrest for her radical activities. At a time when women rarely sought a university or college education, she studied natural sciences, law and economics at the University of Zurich. In 1897, she earned a doctorate with her thesis on the “Industrial development of Poland.” After resettling in Germany and obtaining German citizenship she vociferiously fought for social democracy at party, congress and international level and through her articles and books. She was incarcerated between 1914 and 1918 for anti-war speech and was actively involved in the German November revolution. Rosa Luxemburg was assassinated on 15 January 1919 by uniformed members of the very circles that later openly supported the handover of power to Hitler and the Nazi party.
Rosa Luxemburg’s destiny was inextricably linked to the rise of the German labour movement, the struggles between its various sectors and its ultimate split. She co-founded the German Communist Party (KPD) on 31 December 1918.
“Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of a party – however numerous they may be is no freedom at all. Freedom is always the freedom of the dissenter. Not because of the fanaticism of ‘justice’, but rather because all that is instructive, wholesome, and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effects cease to work when ‘freedom’ becomes a privilege.”
~ Rosa Luxemburg
Since her death, history confirms that, although wars have been won and lost and despite the rise and fall of world orders, there remains a perpetual hunger for political freedom and justice.