Reform or Revolution

Rosa Luxemburg

Introduction by Brinda Karat

LeftWord Books, New Delhi, 2017

Language: English

103 pages

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German Socialism in the late 19th century was torn on this question, with Eduard Bernstein the influential advocate for the centrality of reforms. This view was known as “revisionism ” — — the revision of Marxism downwards from revolution to reformism. Luxemburg argued, in this influential pamphlet, that Bernstein' ’s revisionism would liquidate Marxist politics. She based her critique of Bernstein on her close reading of Marx and of the social dynamic of capitalism. A remarkable riposte from this heroic Marxist intellectual, Reform or Revolution appeared in German in two editions — 1899 and 1908. The present text draws from both editions, with further modifications after consultation with Sozialreform oder Revolution?, Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 1 (Berlin; Dietz Verlag, 1982). The Introduction by Brinda Karat pays tribute to Luxemburg ’'s revolutionary spirit and places her argument in context.

Brinda Karat

Brinda Karat is a member of the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). She was the General Secretary of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) (1993-2004), and a member of the Rajya Sabha (2005-2011). She is the author of Survival and Emancipation: Notes from Indian Women's Struggles (New Delhi 2005).

Rosa Luxemburg

Rosa Luxemburg (5 March 1871 – 15 January 1919) was a Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist and revolutionary socialist of Polish-Jewish descent who became a naturalized German citizen. She was, successively, a member of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL), the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD), and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD).

In 1915, after the SPD supported German involvement in World War I, she and Karl Liebknecht co-founded the anti-war Spartakusbund ("Spartacus League"), which eventually became the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). During the German Revolution, she co-founded the newspaper Die Rote Fahne ("The Red Flag"), the central organ of the Spartacist movement.

She considered the Spartacist uprising of January 1919 a blunder, but supported it as events unfolded. With the crushing of the revolt by Friedrich Ebert's social democratic government and by the Freikorps (World War I veterans who banded together into right-wing paramilitary groups), Freikorps troops captured Luxemburg, Liebknecht and some of their supporters. Luxemburg was shot and her body thrown in the Landwehr Canal in Berlin.

Reform or Revolution