Although she was registered at the university as a student in natural sciences, it was at the German socialist club—with its library, reading room and lecture hall—that she got her education. There, in the autumn of , she met Leo Jogiches, a Lithuanian Jew three years her elder and already a student revolutionary of local reputation.
Everything in him is absorbed by a single, exclusive interest, a single thought, a single passion—the revolution. Leo, in turn, was aroused by her adoration.
They became lovers in ; but, from the start, theirs was a misalliance. From earliest youth, Rosa had looked upon radical politics as a means of living life fully. She wanted everything: marriage and children, books and music, walks on a summer evening and the revolution. Leo, on the other hand, withdrawn and depressed—he hated daylight, sociability and his own sexual need—told her this was nonsense; all that mattered was the Cause.
It held her attention with the same unwavering strength as did the analysis of capital or the general strike. The irony is that it was precisely the compelling nature of this frustrating relationship that, over the next twenty-five years, would make her think hard, and yet harder, about what, exactly, this brave new world of theirs could be about. The all-important source of agreement between them was that nationalism in all its forms was abhorrent; it was the international working class alone that was the hope of a socialist future.
History and Heartbreak: The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg
So every night throughout the early s, in a furnished room in Zurich, they plotted and planned the enlightened uprising of the workers of the world, and within three years it was Rosa who was climbing up on a chair at the Third Congress of the Socialist International in Zurich, appealing for recognition of the antinationalist Polish Marxist Party, which she and Leo had just founded. In it was decided that Luxemburg—who had Westernized the spelling of her name—would move to Berlin to make her way in the Social Democratic Party of Germany SPD , then the most powerful socialist party in Europe.
Jogiches would remain behind in Switzerland, where he was still studying for a doctorate and working to build the Polish party. Never again, except for short periods here and there, would they live in the same city. Several weeks after her arrival in Berlin, with the backing of the SPD, Luxemburg addressed Polish-speaking miners in Upper Silesia, and discovered her gift for making those who heard her feel intimately connected to the pain inherent in whatever social condition she was denouncing.
As she spoke, Luxemburg could see that the men looking up at her were beginning to feel penetrated by the drama of class warfare.
By the time she fell silent, they were living on a mythic scale of history and heartbreak. Afterward, they cheered and applauded, covered her with flowers and spread the news about the astonishing woman from Poland who had come to plead their cause. She returned to Berlin in a blaze of personal glory, now the darling of the party elite. The SPD was, essentially, a theory-driven, centrist party devoted to the workings of its own organization and to the achievement of socialist progress through parliamentary change.
Luxemburg, on the other hand, believed heart and soul that capitalism in all its forms had to be eradicated—through nothing less than the spontaneous uprising of rank-and-file workers—if there was ever to be a social democracy. For the SPD elite, they were words that sent shudders up the collective spine. It was in fiery opposition to her conservative comrades that she wrote her most insightful works. Soon, however, the internal splits within international socialism were to become painfully moot, as Europe drifted toward war in , and German, French and Austrian social democrats prepared to support not the international working class but the war effort of their own countries.
The mental paralysis of the theoretical socialists was overwhelming, and Luxemburg all but had a nervous breakdown. In she was arrested open opposition to the war had become illegal in Germany , and spent the next three years in prison. Her hair turned gray and she began to grow confused, not in her mind but in her spirit.
Nevertheless, she read—Tolstoy, not Marx—and wrote incessantly.
In the summer of , still in prison and now in distress over what was happening in Russia as well as in Europe, she completed a pamphlet called The Russian Revolution, which to this day qualifies as one of the most stirring documents in modern political thought. Luxemburg was a diehard democrat. Never for a moment did she think democracy should be sacrificed to socialism, and in this brief work—the work of one ever mindful of what a human being needs to feel human—she laid out her impassioned insights on the danger to democracy that the Bolshevik Revolution posed.
Luxemburg had met Lenin at the turn of the century, and had been immensely drawn to him. Temperamentally, she felt more at home with him than with the urbane and theoretical Germans.
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She loved his fierce intellect, his fantastic willpower, his shrewd grasp of Russian reality. But early on, she sensed that if he could make a revolution it would be a troubling one. In she had written a paper on the Russian social democrats in which she objected to their growing glorification of the proletariat at the expense of the intelligentsia, and even more strongly to the idea of all authority being gathered in a single revolutionary party. Now, in , the revolution had come, the Bolsheviks had assumed power and she was in a state of active dismay. A year after Lenin had taken control, and only six months before her death, she wrote from her prison cell: [Lenin] is completely mistaken in the means he employs.
Decree…draconian penalties, rule by terror…. Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free exchange of opinions, life dies out in every public institution and only bureaucracy remains active…. Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party, no matter how numerous, is no freedom. Freedom is always freedom for the one who thinks differently.
Luxemburg was released from prison in Breslau on November 8, , and went immediately to Berlin. But all such hopes were doomed; in whichever direction one looked, there was only cynicism and despair. In a desperate attempt to save the rapidly failing monarchy, the newly elected chancellor, a corrupted social democrat, had made a secret deal with the army to rid Germany of its ultra left—no matter the human cost.
The Spartacists had turned violent as well: they wanted power, and they wanted it now. Luxemburg felt like she was staring into space.
A World of Baby Names - Teresa Norman - Google Livros
On January 15, , the police came for her. She thought she was being returned to prison, and was actually relieved; the last two months had been a waking nightmare. She traveled with an American Gypsy survivor to Munich, where she stayed with the formidable Rosa Mettbach. This is the story of Rosa and other members of an extended family who survived the Holocaust. Shared Sorrows tells the story of a Gypsy family against the backdrop of a Jewish one, detailing and examining their shared sufferings under the Nazis.
My father brought a spool of thread with him from Germany when he came to America in And another spool of thread, one in my imagination, unwinds slowly and unpredictably, sometimes fraying or tangling. It's a thin and delicate thread that leads me to the Gypsies, to the family that I meet in Germany, the country of so many tangled memories and emotions. And as I talk to them and I listen, following the threads of their stories backwards in time to the s and 40s and before, their memories start to become mine as well.
Prologue In Human Terms.