Rosa Luxemburg

06 Mar 2017

While the name sounds like that of a soap opera character or possibly a romance novel heroine, Poland’s Rosa Luxemburg was not a fictional figure – though her story as a noted revolutionary socialist is just as dramatic. Born in the southern city of Zamość (which was then controlled by Russia) in 1871, Luxemburg was the fifth child born to a Polish-Jewish family that eventually moved to the capital of Warsaw. There Luxemburg attended school and got her first taste of political activity by becoming involved in the left-wing Proletariat party, a short-lived socialist political party that was essentially dissolved after most of its members were executed or imprisoned around 1886. Luxemburg fled to Switzerland in 1889 to escape persecution for her beliefs and enrolled in Zurich University, where she met Leo Jogiches – a fellow student and the man who would be her romantic and political partner for the rest of her life.

Together the duo founded the Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and created a newspaper, Sprawa Robotnicza (The Worker’s Cause) to oppose the policies of the Polish Socialist Party. Luxemburg maintained the position that an independent Poland would only come about through socialist revolution, a position she held from across the border in Germany (by 1898 Luxemburg had married Gustav Lubeck in order to gain German citizenship and settled in Berlin). In Germany Luxemburg was an active participant in the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and accurately foresaw the upcoming war, condemning Germany’s militarization and writing analyses about European socio-economic issues as well as speaking publicly to workers about solidarity in the event of war.


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