Happy Birthday, Rosa Luxemburg!

Rosa Luxemburg, By unknown photographer around 1895-1900 [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsRosa Luxemburg, Mar 5 1871 – Jan 15 1919, was the Marxist theorist, writer, economist, revolutionist, anti-war and anti-capital-punishment activist, and philosopher who was murdered during the German Revolution of 1918–1919.

Though she was an anti-war activist, Luxemburg was also critical of the idea that a just society can be brought about by incremental reforms through established political systems. If she was to be involved in the 2016 Democratic primary race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, she would very likely have backed Bernie, with his more revolutionary style and rhetoric: she was sharply critical of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, to which she belonged (in its left wing) for favoring a Clinton-style within-the-system, gradual reformist approach. However, Luxemburg’s internationalism takes Marxist thinking beyond the point where leading Marxists of her day had progressed, with their focus on unique formulations of Marxist political theory tailored to their own particular national identities and histories. She would likely find fault, then, with Sanders’ protectionism.

Luxemburg’s other great contribution to Marxist thought is her theory about the accumulation of capital. Since capitalism’s primary fuel is constant and ever-increasing consumption, she thinks it’s a mechanism for the ultimate destruction of our material capabilities to sustain ourselves, starting with the ecosystems on which indigenous people, the poor, and the working class depend. Here as well, her progressive thinking takes her far beyond Marx himself, and her concerns in this timely issue make her as relevant now as ever.

Read more about the brilliant and fearless Luxemburg:

The Crisis of German Social Democracy (The Junius Pamphlet) ~ by Rosa Luxemburg, 1915

‘The Dialectic of the Spatial Determination of Capital: Rosa Luxemburg’s Accumulation of Capital Reconsidered’ ~ by Peter Hudis for Logos: A Journal of Modern Society & Culture

Rosa Luxemburg: Polish-German Revolutionary ~ by Helmut Dietmar Starke for Encyclopædia Britannica

‘Who’s Who: Rosa Luxemburg’ ~ at First World War.com

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