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Remembering Rosa Luxemburg 100 Years Since Her Murder

Comrade Marcus Strom alerted me and many others on Facebook that yesterday (15/1/19) was the 100th Anniversary of the brutal murder of Communist leaders Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht ; and the dumping of their bodies in the Landwehr Canal in Berlin. Liebnecht was an outstanding orator and leader. Meanwhile, Rosa Luxemburg (a Jewish Communist ; born in Poland – but migrating to Germany where the class struggle appeared the most advanced) is the best remembered today. This is largely because she is survived by a plethora of theoretical and practical political-literary work – much of it still relevant for the Left.

The broad example of the slide into war ; and the murder of Rosa and Karl is still instructive today of the dangers of certain kinds of ‘social patriotism’. In 1914 the parliamentary caucus of the SPD (German Social Democrats) voted in favour of war credits – to fund the War. This was against the standing policy of the Second International.  Specifically it was the right-wing leadership of the Social Democratic Government following the 1918-19 Revolution who ordered the murders. For genuine socialists, the names “Ebert, Noske and Scheidemann” will forever live in infamy. And deservedly so.

It is disturbing to think that the SPD was perhaps the leading Social Democratic Party in Europe in 1914 – and yet it crumbled under pressure at the first real hurdle. Many socialists – including Karl Liebnecht and Rosa – tried to agitate against the coming blood-bath. Rosa was imprisoned for the duration of the war after distributing anti-war material. For years social democratic parties had talked about internationalism in the instance of a conflict. But in practice the German trade unions had been subverted ; had embraced a kind of ‘ethno-nationalism’.

And they effectively fell into line in return for a handful of reforms.

Therefore perhaps there was no social or economic basis for stopping the war. But the capitulation of the SPD parliamentary caucus set a demoralising example – which resulted in the split in the Social Democratic movement ; with the most uncompromising anti-war elements re-forming as Communist parties.

Right Social Democrats ; people like Ebert, Noske and Scheidemann ; were sold on ethno-nationalism in Germany since the start (of the war). They capitulated again when some social democrats argued the war should only be supported insofar as it was concerned with ‘national defence’ ; and never be allowed to turn into ‘a war of conquest’. But the German Army hierarchy demanded open ended support for the war instead.  Again, in 1914 the caucus rolled over entirely.

Karl Kautsky – the leader of the ‘Marxist Centre’ – and for a time the most authoritative Marxist intellectual in Europe and the world –  argued for a symbolic abstention on the issue of war credits. But this gained little traction. Lenin was to revisit Kautsky’s position following the October 1917 Russian Revolution, branding him a ‘Renegade’.  But more on Kautsky later.

The real worry is how the unions remained so conservative at the start of the war. And swallowed militarist nationalism hook, line and sinker. In any case the war was to destroy those same unions ; as worker’s organisation collapsed in the face of total war mobilisation. It shows that achieving intellectual leadership of a socialist movement is not enough unless socialist, anti-imperialist and internationalist values can be successfully imparted to a broader base. As well as a willingness to fight when the situation demands it.

Who knows what motivations drove the German Social Democrats to support war in 1914? Fear of imprisonment or execution? Fear of the organisational destruction of the party? (False) assumptions the war would be short? Penetration of the caucus by government agents? Again: many social democrats insisted that support for the war be withdrawn once it became ‘a war of conquest’. But the reality was that the Army had the guns. Again: the parliamentary caucus folded in the face of military pressure.

But what many Leninist and Stalinist critics do not recognise is that by 1915 the ‘Centrists’ (ie: as in the Marxist Centrists) had began agitating for peace at Zimmerwald. Those people argued for a separate peace. So did the Revisionist Socialist, Eduard Bernstein. By comparison, Lenin argued for civil war – to turn the war into Revolution across all Europe if possible.  For all Lenin’s criticisms of Karl Kautsky – by 1915 he (Kautsky) was himself openly fighting against the war.  The critiques of Bolshevism by such diverse figures as Luxemburg, Martov and Kautsky – are still worth reading today as we grapple with the meaning and legacy of the Russian Revolution and its eventual descent into Stalinism. (though many critics under-play the severity of the conditions faced by the Bolsheviks ; and the role of Western intervention in fuelling the centralisation and resort to Terror which opened the way for Stalinism ; That includes destabilisation and support for the White Armies – which meant the threat of starvation and heating fuel shortages for ordinary Russians )

Rosa Luxemburg is famed for her unique, libertarian Marxist contributions to socialist theory and practice. Her theory of the ‘spontaneity of the masses’ is more nuanced than shallow critics would allow for ; positing a dialectical relationship between Party leadership and proletarian initiative. She recognised early on the potential of the Mass Strike. Also, she feared the consequences of over-centralisation within the Bolshevik Party for any revolution ; and particularly the substitution of the Party – and later the Central Committee – for real, grassroots and participatory proletarian democracy. For her there could be no compromise or ‘middle way’ between Reform and Revolution.  She was a strong critic of Revisionism ; including the positions of Eduard Bernstein.

But there are traditions of Left Social Democracy which are not stained by that. For instance the Austro-Marxists. The Austro-Marxists built a participatory counter-culture (workers’ sports, radio stations, libraries, forums, orchestras) ; and progressively funded public housing and amenities like laundries and pools for workers. They even maintained their own militia to defend ‘the democratic path to socialism’. This contributed to the sense that ‘Red Vienna’ was ‘a showcase of Social Democracy’. Though they also made certain fatal mistakes (eg: letting go of their grip on the state apparatus of force in the 1920s) which made it easier in the end for fascists to seize power in 1934.

So as against Rosa Luxemburg I believe a ‘middle way’ of ‘revolutionary reforms’ is possible. But on the 100th Anniversary of her death it is better to honour her very significant legacy. The legacy of her bravery and self-sacrifice. Of her intellect ; her uncompromising values ; her commitment to the working class and her faith in what she believed to be the coming revolution.

On the other hand, the example of the 20th and early 21st centuries (including the rise of fascism ; and also of neo-liberalism) appear to have put paid to a sense that some ‘inevitable teleology towards socialism’ can be counted on. Historical outcomes are far more contingent and uncertain than the old Marxists were willing to admit. Even though the continuation of neo-liberal capitalism is likely to cause intense human suffering – with increases in the intensity of labour ; and further cyclical crises and class bifurcation. And environmental crises also.  Perhaps old Marxist claims to ‘inevitability’ provided morale and confidence. (As Kautsky put it – “the proletariat’s belief in its own strength”).

But while there is hope, notions of inevitability can no longer be maintained. Barbarism is as likely as socialism ; and that itself is a good reason to fight.

Rosa’s fears were realised in the end as Bolshevism gave way to Stalinism. For Communists it is instructive to read her critiques of Bolshevism to get a sense of the dangers associated with Stalinism. And also even with Trotskyism and Leninism. Trotsky wrote of a ‘Soviet Thermidor’ in his critique of Stalinism, ‘The Revolution Betrayed’. But in reality Trotksy supported the same policies of centralisation which led to a situation akin to the demise of the French Revolution – with the rise of the Napoleonic Empire in the place of the Republic.  (Stalin is seen as a ‘Bonpartist’ figure) ; Only Stalin’s repression of his own people – and his Terror against them – was far more extensive than under other ‘Bonapartist’ regimes.

Compared not only with Stalin – but also with Lenin and Trotsky – Luxemburg stands for a kind of libertarian communism. To this day the leadership she provided with her activism and her writings – set a redemptive example for a Left which is often accused of ‘authoritarianism’ or ‘totalitarianism’. Luxemburg  was a democrat and libertarian-revolutionary-communist ; and an uncompromising opponent of the wholesale slaughter of War ; and the Imperialist designs of the ‘Great Powers’.

My personal inclination is more towards the example of the reformed relative (Marxist) centre following World War One.  Especially the Austro-Marxists. (Though I am critical of them on certain counts as well).  But Rosa’s steadfast bravery ; her self-sacrifice in pursuit of peace, and for the liberation of the working class ; should always be honoured on the Left.

Today’s Left needs to engage with past Social Democracy (and Communism) if it is to understand its past ; draw the necessary lessons ; and better plan for its future. This should also include a consideration of the sources of the split in Social Democracy in 1914 ; and the historical ramifications of that. Rosa Luxemburg ; and others like Karl Korsch ; showed that a different kind of (libertarian) communism is possible.

A different kind of social democracy is also possible: committed over the long term to the pursuit of ‘revolutionary reforms’ which would deepen democracy, transform the economy, and over time challenge the class system.

May Rosa Luxemburg (and Karl Liebknecht) always be honoured and remembered on the Left.

This article was originally published on ALP Socialist Left Forum.

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20 comments

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  1. David Fitzpatrick

    Very well put together. I enjoyed reading it.

  2. Diannaart

    What is needed is a balance between the excesses of capitalism and communism, take the best from both; public ownership of essential services which now includes internet and subsequent infrastructure, and also public ownership of environment, by which I mean private business and other actions are to be accountable to both societal and environmental impact.

    I don’t have a problem with small business, just the monster monopolies which become powerful enough to dictate to governments, profit at any cost is false economy; unsustainable and subsequently finite.

    Homes can be a mixture of private and public, we need to invest more into elderly and student/youth housing either by not for profit or government.

    Finding balance is the tricky part, all vested interests need to compromise, it is not a weakness to work towards a healthy society. The more a population has access to the basics of safe secure shelter, health services, education, healthy affordable food, water, a sense of purpose and belonging, the stronger the economy.

  3. paul walter

    This is an excellent essay with disturbing connotations as to public opinion, perceptions and consent manufacture. In this era of Blairite takeover of labourist formations, I really felt a shiver of discord running down my spine…it is exactly what constitutes good history without self-deception, demonstrate through an example from the near past how far out of whack our own ideologicised civilisation is in relation to reality.

    It will probably be one the very best things I’ll read this year for what it shows about cultural factors at play unseen by most people, undetected and undetectable with our human limits like the Cosmic Hum.

  4. paul walter

    Diannaart, it was what we all hoped would develop from the 1970’s but reactive and increasingly monopolised capitalism saw an end to that hope. I think the rupture signifying little or no turning back was reached a while ago, but it is necessary to continue to fight for consciousness and subsequently maintain the will to push back.

    The UK Tories, our own LNP and Trumpist red state America all demonstrate that the return to feudalism is the response of a terminally out of touch un self-reflexive mindset and AIM is a good example of a platform exhibiting the individual and collective social impulse to retrieve civilisation from the barbarians. Fight on we must, because we now know from experience and observation that the alternative is too horrifying to contemplate. They got too complacent and showed us what was really in store, in their denialist state of mind,

  5. Dr Tristan Ewins

    Does anyone have an opinion about Rosa Luxemburg? I am thinking most of today’s liberal Left probably do not know who she was. Hopefully the essay will encourage some people to find out.

  6. Michael Taylor

    Hi Tristan, I have to confess that I was unaware of her. Being ‘introduced’ to her by your article was one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much.

  7. Dr Tristan Ewins

    Thanks Michael 🙂 There’s heaps of stuff on the internet. ‘The Rosa Luxemburg Reader’ is an excellent compilation of her most important works. Geras’s ‘The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg’ is also an important commentary. Her critiques of Lenin and the Bolsheviks are probably the best-known. Her life and work suggest a different kind of communism was possible. Leninism doesn’t have to lead to Stalinism. And Lenin struggled to make the best of appalling conditions. But Leninism (under the kind of circumstances faced by the Bolsheviks) involves the risk that it WILL deteriorate into Stalinism ; even if it’s not inevitable. Sadly, Lenin’s options were limited. Preserving liberties would also be risky in the midst of revolution and civil war. And something has to be done where wreckers sabotage the economy to the point where lives are at stake. (eg: because of starvation, or exposure to the elements without heating fuel) But nonetheless: better to take a risk on democracy and liberties than to degenerate under Stalin into the one of the worst Terrors the world has ever known. The Bolsheviks claimed to be implementing ‘proletarian democracy’ via the Soviets (workers councils) ; but over the long run that didn’t stand up to criticism. Workers’ liberties were severely curtailed over the long term ; not just as a short term emergency measure. Also strict emphasis on productive democracy (productivism) is a very narrow interpretation and practice of democracy.

  8. Joseph Carli

    I recall in studies on social science, that Max Weber was promised a seat with the National Socialists at the time of the Wiemar Republic and he thought he was a shoe-in with the elections…but it didn’t happen, but in the promos, he declared that Rosa Luxemberg “belonged in a madhouse” and that ” Liebnkecht ought to be in a zoo!”…and the first Pole that crossed into the Danzig Corridor “ought to be met with a bullet!”
    So no warm-fuzzies from THAT quarter…As a person, I cannot get a grasp on her character beyond the impersonal…Like many “icons” of historical importance, the whole episode feels like a “report” rather than an actual flesh and blood event…perhaps an example of too objective an historical account….There are writers of history, and there are WRITERS of history…this is perhaps where a more emotive account of events needs to be more readily available.

  9. Josephus

    The French singer Jacques Brel wrote in 1977 a moving and sad song about the assassination of Jean Jaures, the Socialist leader who opposed war credits prior to World War One. It is called ‘Pourquoi ont-ils tue Jaures,’ and is on Youtube. But who has written and sung ballads in memory of Luxemburg and Liebknecht?
    After the Wall fell the West Germans tried to rename Berlin’s Clara Zetkin Strasse . She too was a communist. The East Berliners protested and won, just as they fought to keep their own, very cute, ‘little man’ on the traffic lights. And won that too!

    Certainly the DDR/GDR was not much missed at first. It spied on its people, it banned most travel and it shot escapees. Plus its nomenklatura was as greedy and corrupt as most of our present government here is. Soon however the ‘elbow society’ in turn lost its tinsel for many. Women hated the imported German magazines that dictated that they make up their faces and smile for men. So, the GDR had been a tyrannical regime, since any State that runs society without counterbalances eg a free Press/TV/radio and a counterbalancing Charter of Human Rights, may become a tyranny, whether capitalist or communist. But at least in the GDR women could get rid of brutal men because they earned as much as men did. And the nurseries were free.

  10. paul walter

    Of course, people know of Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht and the Spartacists, legendary within the left and significant historical figures.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Liebknecht

    I hope the anecdote from Joe Carli is not true, that would be immensely disappointing.

  11. Diannaart

    I hadn’t heard of Rosa Luxemburg, therefore grateful to Tristan for this article.

    My politicisation has evolved from life experiences, observation and a sense of justice which I learned very early in life. I have never been a member of any political group. Attendanced protests with a friend or friends. Nor have I read much about communism or socialism in any formal sense.

    While history is an essential foundation, it is wasted if applied rigidly. Malleability to change, learning from, adding to an ideology is progressive. Desiring return to an imagined time when “things were better” is fruitless.

    Loathsome and parasitic as capitalism has become there remain elements worthy to keep, true competitiveness between equals, sense of accomplishment that producing items of worth to others is healthy when not accompanied by self centred superiority of excess wealth or power.

    Expecting a sameness of humans is next to impossible and leads to totalitarian regimes. Which is where both communism and authoritarianism fail.

  12. Joseph Carli

    One is almost speechless in reply…..

    ” Descend into darkness…

    “A fragment does not give us that continuously changing truth….” Anais Nin.

    We now live our lives in fragments. Small moments of awareness, like a penny peep-show of old. Wisdom and knowledge in photo-ops and literary grabs of no more than a thousand words…written in a witty and evocative hand. Hinting at but not over-playing a verbose vocabulary…just enough to thoroughly suffocate the inadequate language of the uneducated while going about the task of educating the unknowing about the inner truths of subjective objectivity.”

  13. Dr Tristan Ewins

    Diannaart ; What you argue could be applied to Stalin. But my no means to Rosa – or to Marx. The original Marxists aimed to build material abundance – which under a democratic socialist state would be the key to real freedom. (over the long term they wanted to abolish the state as well) They supported freedom to “cultivate our gifts in all directions”. Freedom for personal growth – not merely alienating labour. Art, sport, music, literature, and so on. Socialists like Rosa (and Martov and Kautsky) were aware of the risks associated with Leninist strategies in the context of an economically, politically and culturally backwards Russia ; and that was borne out by history. Whether Lenin was right to try is still an uncertain question for me. But there’s no doubting it ended disastrously ; but under extreme pressure.

    What are the benefits and drawbacks of capitalism? We we can speak of markets outside the capitalist context. Capital is a form of property that reproduces itself through the extraction of surplus value from workers. That is: Workers are not paid the full value of their labour. And over recent decades the intensity of labour and of exploitation have increased. So there a big concerns with capitalism ; also including its waste and instability. And one point Marx argued for centralisation of the means of production in the hands of the state. That seemed to make sense at the time because there was not the same call for innovation of products. Today this should not be our aim – Rather our aim should be a ‘democratic mixed economy’. ALSO the biggest corporations have economies of scale ; which can help innovation. But co-operative product development between countries is imaginable ; innovation through co-operation.

    It is possible to have socialism and markets. Indeed it is desirable. There are areas where competition drives innovation and responsiveness to consumers. There are also examples of monopolies ripping consumers off ; and governments privatising assets to ‘mates’ in the private sector who thereafter fleece the public. The question is: What form of democratic mixed economy?

    I would say first: state intervention to support consumers and producers co-ops ; including assistance to reach the scale which is sometimes necessary for competitiveness. Small co-ops as well.

    Secondly: I would see strategically restore the public sector. There are areas : ‘natural public monopolies’ – which pass on efficiencies to everyone. Many privatisations have been harmful not only to ordinary consumers ; but even to businesses.

    Third: Maintain a fair tax system ; don’t let corporations get away with tax avoidance ; use corporate tax as a lever for redistribution as much as can be sustained ; but also just so they pay for services rendered by government and ‘the people’.

    Fourth: Grow the social wage and welfare state to the point where all core needs are guaranteed. Food, Housing, Heating/Cooling, Nurtrition ; education for the labour market – but also for personal growth ; roads and public transport ; communications, water, energy infrastructure ; and so on. Maintain ‘government business enterprises’ to inject competition where otherwise there could be monopoly or confusion.

    But again: modern socialism and even modern marxism is not about centralising ALL productive activity in the hands of the state.

    Let markets do their job where they do it well. DO not disengage with the global economy. We can democratise ; but only so far under global capitalism.

    Promote a far more egalitarian society: but there will always be some differences: which promote the develop of skills ; conscientious work ; compensation for difficult work ; and so on.

    But wealth should not be overwhelmingly concentrated in the hands of a top few per cent. And neither should half the country have practically nothing.

    Miriam Lyons’s ‘Governomics’ is a powerful defence of the public sector ; not only in the past – but as an option today. In the end I am possibly more radical. But Lyons demonstrates how a strong mixed economy is in everyone’s interests ; and even the Conservatives once supported such policies. History is not necessarily ‘a one way street’. Neo-liberalism has been destroying all we held dear over decades. But remember the French Revolution was destroyed ; but in the end – today – we have a French Republic. Even big setbacks over decades should not be presumed to be ‘permanent’. History is more contingent that that ; people can collectively apply their wills ; and the faults of capitalism will raise difficult questions again into the future.

  14. Dr Tristan Ewins

    also ‘Communism’ in the Stalinist sense is nothing like ‘communism’ in the Marxist sense. Marx’s communism is about freedom. Stalin’s ‘Communism’ was about permanent Terror and Cult of Personality. Which caused many to turn away from Socialism. But better to read Martov, Luxemburg, Kautsky, Otto Bauer – many other ; to see there was always socialist criticism of and opposition to Stalinism. And even to Leninism. Reading about ‘Red Vienna’ and the ‘Austro-Marxists’ could be enlightening here.

  15. Joseph Carli

    Tristan…Your four provisos for social democracy would by their very scale and comprehension demand TOTAL authority to both implement and hold in place…a condition philosophically unsustainable in a “competitive environment”….and all this idle chatter about what Stalin did or did not do…and we might as well include Mao in the general censorious debate of ” How to build and maintain a State”….as you said..: “under extreme pressure”..like ; revolution to overturn centuries of dynastic, aristocratic governence into a communist state, civil wars, external sabotage and a world war with invasion by a extremely vicious protagonist then endless assult by proxy agents provocateurs….the list goes on…
    What both Stalin and Mao had to do to stabilise and secure the State, was to create a secure and solid and reliable social foundation with people and officials that could be trusted to be solid supporters of the communist plan. There was NO ROOM FOR DOUBT in that trust…hence so many pogroms…..Christ!…I’d a done worse to many people I know in these times!

    https://freefall852.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/a-cultural-revolution/

  16. paul walter

    Yes, in many ways globalised neoliberalism seems a sort of command economy, something almost feudal or Brezhnevian and much as I have enjoyed this thread I have to say the nub of it revolves around the word “disengage” and a plea not to “disengage” on the deeper level but see history as a process, not a book completed. If things went well, depending on contingencies, a future generation might say it found the beginnings of its world in the past world early in emergence from feudalism.

    The dark side of contingency, of course, sees a future pointless and dystopic world where the worst traits of technology and the control freak mentality have merged to produce something out of the Dark Ages, this time with no “out” via historical processes.

    Lefties since the nineteenth century have always operated within a process related time frame, “not in our time, our children’s time, or their children’s time…but maybe one day”.

    My feeling is that the evolutionary process described by Tristan Ewins in his beaut organised reply to Diannaart had conditions about right around 1970, but that things somehow went awry due to complacency, the human condition, conditioning, whatever and Thatcherist/Murdochist greed allied with complacency within the Western masses combined to shut a barely open door to a better future.

    Yet each decade since has also demonstrated resistance and pushback against oligarchy, so maybe it is premature to throw in the towel, even in these dark times where the Third World seems to remain a sort of giant open air concentration camp and perverse and egregious wastage has developed into a form of taunt.

  17. Diannaart

    Tristan

    Thank you for such clear, cogent and informative reply to my earlier comment. I do appreciate the reading recommendations, and can see there were and are people who have a holistic approach to the balance of state, private enterprise and the people no matter their background or skills.

    I guess I have become jaded by those who appear set in their ways as well as to a singular point in time.

    With the impact of climate change starting to hit hard, humans are going to need all the adaptability, innovation and collaboration we can bring to the future. It’s gonna be interesting.

    Regards

  18. paul walter

    An afterthought.

    It is the modern habit to put all blame for the missed opportunity of Leninist communism in the twentieth century solely down to Stalin who, like Hitler, was a maddened product of violence and poverty as feudalism writhed in its death throes, culminating in WW!.

    But as with Vietnam and China later, Russia after 1918 could ended much differently but for the obstinate opposition and obstructionism of the Western oligarchy, who proceeded with contempt prior to the investigation against the infant new state.

    Th eoligarchy, fearful of its wealth, toys and power being challenged brooked no tolerance for the state of Lenin , then Trotsky, then Stalin, and paranoia and stress permeated the under siege new Soviet Union. The time became ripe for Stalin, as it was for crushed Germany, from about 1930.

    Greed and ignorance from the west, a smuch as the personal pathologies and traits of the dictators.

  19. Kyran

    It is always interesting to note the different stages of development the world was at and how they interact. Whilst the military misadventures in Europe were going on, ‘white’ Australia was struggling with the notion of independence, however fragile and tenuous that independence was.
    Unionism in Australia pre WW1 wasn’t as strong as it was in Europe and, to that extent, the union’s conservatism was less surprising.
    “The real worry is how the unions remained so conservative at the start of the war. And swallowed militarist nationalism hook, line and sinker. In any case the war was to destroy those same unions;”
    The Australian people, arguably because of the odd nature of white settlement, have always had a conflicted relationship with ‘authority’, which is reflected in so many of the WW1 annals. The Australian digger was simultaneously highly regarded for their innovative and tenacious fighting prowess yet also maligned for the frequent acts of insubordination.
    Greg Raffin’s ‘Mutiny on the Western Front 1918’ is one such annal.

    https://booksonwaraustralia.com/battalion-histories/2194-mutiny-on-the-western-front-1918-.html

    It details many incidents where Australian soldiers were awarded military honours and also court martialled for drunkenness, insubordination and going AWOL or deserting their posts. Even mutiny.
    In Europe, the unions were largely sucked in by militarist nationalism, as were the Australian unions. The Australian people – not so much. There were two referenda on conscription being used for overseas service, both of which failed. The Australian government followed their English master’s requests for more cannon fodder and the Australian people said ‘No’.
    “There was sustained British pressure on the Australian Government to ensure that its divisions were not depleted: in 1916 it was argued that Australia needed to provide reinforcements of 5500 men per month to maintain its forces overseas at operational level. With advertising campaigns not achieving recruiting targets, Prime Minister Hughes decided to ask the people in a referendum if they would agree to a proposal requiring men undergoing compulsory training to serve overseas.”
    “The conscription referenda were divisive politically, socially and within religious circles. Newspapers and magazines of the time demonstrate the concerns, arguments, and the passion of Australians in debating this issue. The decisive defeat of the second referendum closed the issue of conscription for the remainder of the war.”

    http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/fact-sheets/fs161.aspx

    It is also interesting to note the dynamic of a popular movement as opposed to populism, one being an abuse of the other. Having been unaware of Ms Luxemburg’s history, there were similarities to other movements across time and continents that suffered the same fate, a trend which continues today.
    “Rosa Luxemburg is famed for her unique, libertarian Marxist contributions to socialist theory and practice. Her theory of the ‘spontaneity of the masses’ is more nuanced than shallow critics would allow for; positing a dialectical relationship between Party leadership and proletarian initiative.”
    There is an excellent book by Eric Metaxas, ‘Martin Luther’, which chronicles his history and that of the Reformist movement. Martin Luther was not the instigator of the movement but managed to harness the commonality of objecting to rule by elites which institutionalised their power. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

    https://dailyreview.com.au/eric-metaxas-martin-luther-man-rediscovered-god-changed-world/73569/

    That his movement gained so much popular support and attracted so much criticism is a time honoured path. The similarity is that many in his own movement usurped the groundswell for change for their own ideologies and resultant powers. Subscribers to his message and method include the likes of Ghandi, Mandela and, obviously, the Martin Luther King’s, senior and junior.
    Since the original Martin Luther, the ‘powers that be’ have understood that divide and conquer is the best way to destroy any contrary thinking. The conversation frequently descends into ‘left versus right’, ‘conservative versus progressive’, ‘labour versus capital’, the ‘battle of the classes’. The dissection of alternate economic theories such as socialism, capitalism or communism becomes a distraction, a division of intent, losing sight altogether of the main aim, the reallocation of authority to the people rather than those who would seek to rule them. The ‘spontaneity of the masses’ has been the subject of much abuse and is frequently hijacked. The Orange Buffoon is credited with representing the interests of those he seeks to destroy and this is portrayed as a caution against popular movement by a partisan media. What crap!
    There will be marches across the globe this weekend that are bi-partisan, not driven by political parties or vested interests but focussed on the issues that not only remain unresolved but are steadfastly opposed by those claiming to represent us.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/18/womens-march-30-countries-set-to-take-part-in-third-global-protest

    The difference between Martin Luther’s time and today is this thing called the internet, which is becoming a very significant means to the same end. It is an interesting aside that Martin Luther’s campaign was aided by a relatively new invention called the printing press, which allowed a message to gather traction through much broader circulation and dissemination. We now have rallies across the globe that engage millions of people against war, against discrimination, against inequality, against poverty, against inaction on climate change. That they are ignored in any meaningful way is the harbinger of further unrest and distrust, which becomes the fuel for idiots such as Trump or the myriad of nutters available on the Australian domestic scene. We now have a plethora of ‘conservative parties’, with small memberships, being heralded as a swing to the right. Ignoring completely the larger movements which ask for nothing more than a genuine democracy.
    If we are swinging so far to ‘the right’, where are the popular movements engaging millions of people across the globe that are pro war, pro discrimination, pro inequality, pro poverty? Such movements are restricted to the board rooms of companies grasping for any means to achieve their agendas.
    As you so rightly point out, there are many positives to be gleaned from the likes of Ms Luxemburg, who evidently did not seek personal power but rather a power for the masses.
    “A different kind of social democracy is also possible: committed over the long term to the pursuit of ‘revolutionary reforms’ which would deepen democracy, transform the economy, and over time challenge the class system.”
    There was an interesting hypothetical in The Guardian the other day. Remember the GFC and how governments across the globe used the mantra ‘too big to fail’ to justify bailing out bankers who should have been jailed? That was all done with the assurance that, once the economies had been righted, they would take the companies and the structures on which they relied and regulate them to ensure such destructive greed could not happen again. As we head for our second GFC, it is interesting to ponder what would have happened if these bastards had done their jobs.

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jan/17/socialist-utopia-2050-what-could-life-in-australia-be-like-after-the-failure-of-capitalism

    Remembering these people as champions of the left, or of workers, or of a particular brand of economic management, perpetrates the distractions. Remembering them as humanitarians is far more apt. In that sense, your penultimate paragraph was a better epitaph.
    “A different kind of social democracy is also possible: committed over the long term to the pursuit of ‘revolutionary reforms’ which would deepen democracy, transform the economy, and over time challenge the class system.”
    Thank you Dr Ewins and commenters. Take care

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