Polish-born German Revolutionary, Marxist Theorist, Philosopher, Economist, Agitator and Socialist
Rosa Luxemburg, aka Rosalia Luxemburg, "Bloody Rosa"
Polish-born German Revolutionary, Marxist Theorist, Philosopher, Economist, Agitator and Socialist
What distinguishes bourgeois society from other class societies ? from ancient society and from the social order of the Middle Ages? Precisely the fact that class domination does not rest on ?acquired rights? but on real economic relations ? the fact that wage labour is not a juridical relation, but purely an economic relation. In our juridical system there is not a single legal formula for the class domination of today. The few remaining traces of such formulae of class domination are (as that concerning servants), survivals of feudal society.
What is meant by it is a single grand rising of the industrial proletariat springing from some political motive of the highest importance, and undertaken on the basis of an opportune and mutual understanding on the part of the controlling authorities of the new party and of the trade unions, and carried through in the spirit of party discipline and in perfect order, and in still more perfect order brought to the directing committees as a signal given at the proper time, by which committees the regulation of support, the cost, the sacrifice ? in a word, the whole material balance of the mass strike ? is exactly determined in advance.
What the trade-union opponent of the mass strike understands by the ?historical basis? and ?material conditions? is two things ? on the one hand the weakness of the proletariat, and on the other hand, the strength of Prussian-German militarism. The inadequate organization of the workers and the imposing Prussian bayonet ? these are the facts and figures upon which these trade-union leaders base their practical policy in the given case.
When people write they mostly forget to reach deep into their own selves, to relive the importance and truth of the subject.
We have seen above the inner mechanism of the Russian mass strike which depends upon the ceaseless reciprocal action of the political and economic struggles. But this reciprocal action is conditioned during the revolutionary period. Only in the sultry air of the period of revolution can any partial little conflict between labor and capital grow into a general explosion. In Germany the most violent, most brutal collisions between the workers and employers take place every year and every day without the struggle overleaping the bounds of the individual departments or individual towns concerned, or even those of the individual factories?..in reality the mass strike does not produce the revolution but the revolution produces the mass strike.
We stand today?before the awful proposition: either the triumph of imperialism and the destruction of all culture, and, as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration, a vast cemetery; or, the victory of socialism.
Today the number of trade-unionists already runs into the second million, but the views of the leaders are still exactly the same, and may very well be the same to the end. The tacit assumption is that the entire working class of Germany, down to the last man and the last woman, must be included in the organization before it ?is strong enough? to risk a mass action, which then, according to the old formula, would probably be represented as ?superfluous.
War is methodical, organized, gigantic murder.
The Russian Revolution of 1905 teaches above all that the mass strike is not artificially ?made,? not ?decided? at random, not ?propagated,? but that it is a historical phenomenon which, at a given moment, results from social conditions with historical inevitability.
The scientific basis of socialism rests ? on three principal results of capitalist development. First, on the growing anarchy of capitalist economy, leading inevitably to its ruin. Second, on the progressive socialization of the process of production, which creates the germs of the future social order. And third, on the increased organization and consciousness of the proletarian class, which constitutes the active factor in the coming revolution.
The world historic appeal of the communist manifesto has undergone a significant amendment and, after Karl Kautsky?s correction, now reads: Workers of the world unite in peace and slash your throats in war! Rosa Luxemburg, during the First World War
This they cannot do, however, by suddenly issuing the ?slogan? for a mass strike at random at any odd moment, but first and foremost, by making clear to the widest layers of the proletariat the inevitable advent of this revolutionary period, the inner social factors making for it and the political consequences of it.
To give the cue for, and the direction to, the fight; to so regulate the tactics of the political struggle in its every phase and at its every moment that the entire sum of the available power of the proletariat which is already released and active, will find expression in the battle array of the party; to see that the tactics of the social democrats are decided according to their resoluteness and acuteness and that they never fall below the level demanded by the actual relations of forces, but rather rise above it ? that is the most important task of the directing body in a period of mass strikes. And this direction changes of itself, to a certain extent, into technical direction. A consistent, resolute, progressive tactic on the part of the social democrats produces in the masses a feeling of security, self-confidence and desire for struggle; a vacillating weak tactic, based on an underestimation of the proletariat, has a crippling and confusing effect upon the masses.
The rigid, mechanical-bureaucratic conception cannot conceive of the struggle save as the product of organization at a certain stage of its strength. On the contrary, the living, dialectical explanation makes the organization arise as a product of the struggle. We have already seen a grandiose example of this phenomenon in Russia, where a proletariat almost wholly unorganized created a comprehensive network of organizational appendages in a year-and-a-half of stormy revolutionary struggle.
The plan of undertaking mass strikes as a serious political class action with organized workers only is absolutely hopeless. If the mass strike, or rather, mass strikes, and the mass struggle are to be successful they must become a real people?s movement, that is, the widest sections of the proletariat must be drawn into the fight.
The railway trains full with reservists are no longer accompanied by the loud acclamations of the young ladies; the soldiers no longer smile at the populace out of their carriage windows; instead they slink silently through the streets, their packs in their hands, while the public follows its daily preoccupations with dour faces. In the sober atmosphere of the morning after, another chorus takes the stage: the hoarse cries of the vultures and hyenas which appear on every battlefield: ten thousand tents guaranteed to specification! A hundred tons of bacon, cocoa, coffee substitute, instant delivery but cash only, hand grenades, tools, ammunition belts, marriage brokers for the widows of the fallen, agencies for government supply--only serious offers considered! The cannon fodder inflated with patriotism and carried off in August and September 1914 now rots in Belgium, in the Vosges, in the Masurian swamps, creating fertile plains of death on which profits can grow. Hurry, for the rich harvest must be gathered into the granaries--a thousand greedy hands stretch across the ocean to help.
The revolution and its mass strike means that class feeling, the class instinct, is alive and very active in the Russian proletariat, so that immediately they regard every partial question of any small group of workers as a general question, as a class affair, and quick as lightening they react to its influence as a unity. While in Germany, France, Italy and Holland the most violent trade-union conflicts call forth hardly any general action of the working class ? and when they do, only the organized part of the workers move ? in Russia the smallest dispute raises a storm.
The most revolutionary thing one can do is always to proclaim loudly what is happening.
The overestimate and the false estimate of the role of organizations in the class struggle of the proletariat [that] is generally reinforced by the underestimate of the unorganized proletarian mass and of their political maturity.
The pedantic conception which would unfold great popular movements according to plan and recipe regards the acquisition of the right of combination for the railway workers as necessary before anyone will ?dare to think? of a mass strike in Germany. The actual and natural course of events can only be the opposite of this: only from a spontaneous powerful mass strike action can the right of combination from the German railway workers, as well as for the postal employees, actually be born. And the problems which in the existing conditions of Germany are insoluble will suddenly find their solution under the influence and the pressure of a universal political mass action of the proletariat.
The period of the economic struggles of the spring and summer of 1905 made it possible for the urban proletariat, by means of active social democratic agitation and direction, to assimilate later all the lessons of the January prologue and to grasp clearly all the further tasks of the revolution. There was connected with this too, another circumstance of an enduring social character: a general raising of the standard of life of the proletariat, economic, social and intellectual.
The method of approach must, therefore, not be through abstract speculations on the possibility or impossibility, the utility or the injuriousness of the mass strike, but only by an examination of those factors and social conditions out of which the mass strike grows in the present phase of the class struggle ? in other words, it is not by subjective criticism of the mass strike from the standpoint of what is desirable, but only by objective investigation of the sources of the mass strike from the standpoint of what is historically inevitable, that the problem can be grasped or even discussed.
Order prevails in Berlin! You foolish lackeys! Your order is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will rise up again, clashing its weapons, and to your horror it will proclaim with trumpets blazing: I was, I am, I shall be!
Sir, I believe you, you would run away; a social democrat does not. He stands by his deeds and laughs at your judgments. And now sentence me.
The apparent polar opposites do not mutually exclude each other but, as always, condition, and at the same time, supplement each other. For the anarchist mode of thought is direct speculation on the ?great Kladderadatsch,? on the social revolution merely as an external and inessential characteristic. According to it, what is essential is the whole abstract, unhistorical view of the mass strike and of all the conditions of the proletariat struggle generally.