Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Rosa Luxemburg, aka Rosalia Luxemburg, "Bloody Rosa"

Polish-born German Revolutionary, Marxist Theorist, Philosopher, Economist, Agitator and Socialist

"I am only comforted by the grim thought that I too will soon be sent to meet my Maker ? perhaps by a bullet of the counter-revolution, which is lurking on all sides. But as long as I live, I remain beholden to you in the warmest, most loyal and fervent love."

"I know that I must first collect my epaulettes in the movement; but I want to do this in the left wing, where one wants to fight with the enemy and not in the right wing, where one wants to compromise with the enemy."

"I know thy works, that thou are neither cold nor hot; I would that thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth."

"I want to affect people like a clap of thunder, to inflame their minds not by speechifying but with the breadth of my vision, the strength of my conviction and the power of my expression."

"I want to burden the conscience of the affluent with all the suffering and all the hidden, bitter tears?"

"If they expect us to murder our French or other foreign brothers, then let us tell them, ?No, under no circumstances!?"

"In the case of the enlightened German worker the class consciousness implanted by the social democrats is theoretical and latent: in the period ruled by bourgeois parliamentarism it cannot, as a rule, actively participate in a direct mass action; it is the ideal sum of the four hundred parallel actions of the electoral sphere during the election struggle, of the many partial economic strikes and the like. In the revolution when the masses themselves appear upon the political battlefield this class-consciousness becomes practical and active. A year of revolution has therefore given the Russian proletariat that ?training? which thirty years of parliamentary and trade-union struggle cannot artificially give to the German proletariat."

"It becomes obvious that the task of social democracy does not consist in the technical preparation and direction of mass strikes, but, first and foremost, in the political leadership of the whole movement."

"It is contrary to history to represent work for reforms as a long-drawn out revolution and revolution as a condensed series of reforms. A social transformation and a legislative reform do not differ according to their duration but according to their content. The secret of historic change through the utilization of political power resides precisely in the transformation of simple quantitative modification into a new quality, or to speak more concretely, in the passage of an historic period from one given form of society to another. That is why people who pronounce themselves in favor of the method of legislative reform in place and in contradistinction to the conquest of political power and social revolution, do not really choose a more tranquil, calmer and slower road to the same goal, but a different goal. Instead of taking a stand for the establishment of a new society they take a stand for surface modifications of the old society. If we follow the political conceptions of revisionism, we arrive at the same conclusion that is reached when we follow the economic theories of revisionism. Our program becomes not the realization of socialism, but the reform of capitalism; not the suppression of the wage labor system but the diminution of exploitation, that is, the suppression of the abuses of capitalism instead of suppression of capitalism itself."

"It is sheer insanity to believe that capitalists would goodhumouredly obey the socialist verdict of a parliament or of a national assembly, that they would calmly renounce property, profit, the right to exploit."

"Legislative reform and revolution are not different methods of historic development that can be picked out at the pleasure from the counter of history, just as one chooses hot or cold sausages. Legislative reform and revolution are different factors in the development of class society. They condition and complement each other, and are at the same time reciprocally exclusive, as are the north and south poles, the bourgeoisie and proletariat."

"Mass action has altered inwardly all the more powerfully as it for the first time awoke class feeling and class-consciousness in millions upon millions as if by an electric shock. And this awakening of class feeling expressed itself forthwith in the circumstances that the proletarian mass, counted by millions, quite suddenly and sharply came to realize how intolerable was that social and economic existence which they had patiently endured for decades in the chains of capitalism. Thereupon, there began a spontaneous general shaking of and tugging at these chains. All the innumerable sufferings of the modern proletariat reminded them of the old bleeding wounds. Here was the eight-hour day fought for, there piece-work was resisted, here were brutal foremen ?driven off? in a sack on a handcar, at another place infamous systems of fines were fought against, everywhere better wages were striven for and here and there the abolition of homework. Backward, degraded occupations in large towns, small provincial towns, which had hitherto dreamed in an idyllic sleep, the village with its legacy from feudalism ? all these, suddenly awakened by the January lightning, bethought themselves of their rights and now sought feverishly to make up for their previous neglect."

"My dear, it is very nice here, every day two or three persons are stabbed by soldiers in the city; there are daily arrests, but apart from these it is pretty gay.."

"On the same ground of abstract, unhistorical methods of observation stand those today who would, in the manner of a board of directors, put the mass strike in Germany on the calendar on an appointed day, and those who, like the participants in the trade-union congress at Cologne, would by a prohibition of ?propaganda? eliminate the problem of the mass strike from the face of the earth. Both tendencies proceed on the common purely anarchistic assumption that the mass strike is a purely technical means of struggle which can be ?decided? at the pleasure and strictly according to conscience/"

"Only when the great mass of workers take the keen and dependable weapons of scientific socialism in their own hands, will all the petty-bourgeois inclinations, all the opportunistic currents, come to naught. The movement will then find itself on sure and firm ground. ?Quantity will do it.?"

"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."

"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."

"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 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 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 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."

"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."

"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? 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."

"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."