The F Word: Rosa Luxemburg

News & Politics

As some of you may remember, I’ve been hosting an on going series with economist Rick Wolff and journalist Chris Hedges, looking at the Left’s classic texts in the contemporary context.

The text this year was Rosa Luxemburg’s Reform or Revolution. Now prodding people today to pick up old texts has its challenges. Luxemburg, didn’t tweet or Snapchat or podcast. She wrote. In German. Most famously, in response to a series of articles with tltles like this one:

Die Voraussetztungen des Soczialismus und die Aufgaben der Socialdemokratie—the 1899 edition.

But don’t let that put you off. Luxemburg was a phenomenon: a woman, a Jew, an immigrant, a person living with a disability, very young, in her twenties when she wrote her most important work.

She faced prejudice galore and still rose to become one of the outstanding revolutionary figures of the pre­- World War I generation.

In the 1890s she led the fight against the “evolutionary” as opposed to “revolutionary” socialists who argued that capitalism might not need to collapse, or the proletariat revolt but rather, that capitalism could be reformed gradually.

To set the scene imagine if you can, living in a time at the turn of a new century, in which new technologies are everywhere on the rise, but everywhere corporate cartels control not just the economic but also the political mechanisms of the State. Now imagine that wages are falling, trade unions are struggling and wars of empire seem always to be breaking out.... crazy right?

Imagine further, that a man is arguing that socialism can be advanced, not by overturning that state, but by electing a self-­described socialist president. He’s even talking about revolution.  What’s going on? Sound familiar?

I don’t know where your mind could possibly have wandered off to, but that situation is more or less the one Rosa Luxemburg found herself in.

No nibbling reformer she, Luxemburg accused the evolutionists of “proposing to change the sea of capitalist bitterness into a sea of socialist sweetness by progressively pouring into it bottles of social reformist lemonade.”

Reform or Revolution? Still think it’s an outmoded text? Take another look. And then, how about sending some support to the media that tolerates, even encourages thinking about this sort of stuff. Not in German, yet, but in Spanish, if you watch on TeleSUR. And English.

You can see my interview with  Seattle’s socialist City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant [TK] on the Laura Flanders show on KCET/LINK TV and teleSUR or listen to our podcast on ITunes or any podcast feed. More information at

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