Rosa Luxemburg



Rosa was a Polish Jew and, politically, she was also German, but above all she was an irreducible internationalist.

“When Rosa underlines (…) the fight against “the ghost of the national war” (…) one cannot fail to recognize that her reasoning is very fair and valid. The mistake would be to exaggerate this truth, by failing to follow the Marxist rule that requires us to be concrete, that is, to extend the interpretations of the current war to all possible wars in the era of imperialism, forgetting the national movements against imperialism. The only argument in favor of the thesis that “there can no longer be national wars” is that the world is divided between a handful of great imperialist powers and that, for this reason, any war, be it national in principle, becomes an imperialist war. , since it harms the interests of one of the powers or imperialist coalitions. This argument is manifestly wrong. Certainly, the fundamental thesis of the Marxist dialectic is that all limits in nature and society are conventional and mobile, that there is no phenomenon that cannot, under certain conditions, transform itself into its opposite. A national war can turn into an imperialist war, but the reverse is also true. Example: the wars of the great French revolution began as national wars (…). They were revolutionary, because their object was the defense of the great revolution against the coalition of counterrevolutionary monarchies. But when Napoleon founded the French Empire by subjugating a whole series of important and long-established national states in Europe, then the French national wars became imperialist wars, which in turn engendered wars of national liberation against the Napoleon's imperialism.(…) That the current imperialist war of 1-1914 would turn into a national war is completely unlikely (…) because the forces of the two coalitions are not so different, and because international finance capital has created all over the world the side a reactionary bourgeoisie. But it is not permissible to describe such a transformation as impossible. (…) This is improbable, but not impossible, because it is anti-dialectical, anti-scientific, theoretically, inaccurate, to present universal history as advancing regularly and without stumbling, without sometimes making gigantic leaps back. (…) Every war is the continuation of politics by other means The continuation of the national liberation policy of the colonies will inevitably lead them to have national wars against imperialism” (Vladimir Ilyich Ulianov, alias, Lenin, About the Junius brochure)

The invasion of Ukraine and the need to reflect on the nature of this war led me to look for the writings on the polemic between Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin on the national question. Rosa Luxemburg was a Polish Jew and, politically, she was also German, but, above all, an irreducible internationalist. One of these days a young man asked me, through a social network, if I was from Luxembourg, and I said yes. He was surprised.

After reading the polemic about the nature of the First World War between Rosa and Lenin, although I agree with Lenin, I felt more Luxembourgish than ever. We learn from the great, even when we disagree with one idea or another. I tried to explain that, in my opinion, to be a Marxist in the XNUMXst century means to be a Leninist, Trotskyist, Luxembourgist, Gramscian, and I do not consider it contradictory to claim, on different topics, the collective influence of the leaders of the left of the Second International. I do not believe that an open and, at the same time, revolutionary Marxism is incompatible. I like to think that this is not about eclecticism.

It is true that my main identity has been Trotskyism, due to the centrality of the “Russian question” for half a century. I have avoided the term Luxembourgishness, because it has been used in an abusive, even pejorative way, although it deserves to be used.

It was Josef Stalin who headed a smear campaign against Rosa Luxemburg, in a sinister article, "Problems in the History of Bolshevism", in which he rewrote history according to his convenience, and in which he decreed, contrary to the most incontrovertible evidence, that Rosa would be responsible for the imprescriptible theoretical sin of permanent revolution, and that Trotsky, in fact, would have plagiarized Luxemburg.

Isaac Deutscher, in the armed prophet, the first volume of his Trotsky biographical trilogy, claims, as a founding member of the Polish Communist Party, an organization also heir to the influence of Rosa and Leo Jogiches, that his party would have been born having as its program the conception of the historical trends of revolutionary processes expressed in the theory of permanent revolution.

In fact, we can find in Rosa an identification of the role of the proletariat in the democratic revolution against tsarism in Mass, Party and Union Strike. But Rosa summarized his analyzes on the subject when he established the links between the lessons of the Russian revolution of 1905 and the struggles in Germany, taking the influence of the Marxist parties in Russia as a dialectical refraction of the weight of the International in the West, which in turn it would be a refraction of the degree of maturity of the class struggle, in Germany itself. An irreproachable example of dialectical analysis, in which the subjective becomes objective, in which the backward surpasses the advanced, and vice versa. Internationalist to the core, therefore.

Stalinism, in its eagerness to distill a “chemically pure” official doctrine that was nothing more than, essentially, a distorted vulgarization of Lenin's theoretical-political thought, the famous “Marxism-Leninism”, had to invent the most outrageous historical falsifications.

Among them emerged the long-lasting version of Rosa's “deviations”. According to this tradition, Rosa would have been from the beginning to the end of her political life: (a) sectarian in the face of the national question; (b) catastrophic in relation to the nature of the time and imperialism; (c) spontaneous in relation to the revolutionary protagonism of the workers and (d) centrist in organizational problems. In short, she has strong tendencies towards opportunism.

All intellectual fraud needs to rely on some element of truth to be at least plausible. Thus, it was not difficult to discover that Rosa maintained, for years, and around the most varied themes, heated discussions with Lenin: and that would be the definitive and categorical proof of the deviations of Luxembourgism.

Lenin's authority was thus manipulated in the service of the most aberrant amalgams, in defense of monolithism as a virtue. Like Trotsky, in fact, Rosa maintained polemics with almost all the most influential Marxists of his time, some of greater and others of lesser importance. Nobody is infallible.

This, by the way, was the healthy procedure of the revolutionaries who were his contemporaries without exception: submitting all ideas to the severe critical examination. The left of the Second International brought together, for many years, in the form of a movement that was later fundamentally committed to the founding of the Third International, a notable handful of Marxists of the most different nationalities, who openly and publicly debated the main problems that affected the destinies of the labor movement of his time: Racovsky was Romanian, Mehring, German, Sneevliet, Dutch, Gramsci, Italian, Rosa and Radek, Polish-Jewish, Leo Joghiches, Lithuanian, Lenin, Russian, Trotsky, Ukrainian-Jewish.

The list is both long and impressive. Not only for the talent of an exceptional generation, but for the plurality of different national experiences, diverse theoretical and methodological approaches, and for the impressive volume of works, of an incredible productivity.

All discussed seriously with each other. The alignments varied, permanently, depending on the themes on the agenda. All had successes and errors of evaluation. All of this is extensively documented.

But it is simpler to implode a building all at once than to demolish it floor by floor. The disqualification of Rosa's work thus took the form of a campaign against Luxembourgism. The simplifying deformations left a perennial influence.

The recovery of Rosa's thought is still to be done, to a great extent, and in this sense, Luxembourgism can be recognized as a sensitivity, among others, of a heterogeneous political current: the revolutionary Marxism of the beginning of the century. Yes, I'm on Rosa's team, a Luxembourger.

*Valério Arcary is a retired professor at IFSP. Author, among other books, of Revolution meets history (Shaman).


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