1914: how German socialism came to betray the workers

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1914: how German socialism came to betray the workers
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: 1914: how German socialism came to betray the workers. The discussion was initiated by baboon.
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Excellent text

An excellent piece of work. Plenty of lessons for the working class and its minorities here: the obselescence of the mass party along with demorcacy, elections and the need for a tight revolutionary cadre. The article shows how the capitulation of the Second International and social democracry - along with the unions - wasn't a sudden development out of the blue but had its roots in the whole period before as these elements of the working class were integrated into and embraced by the state for whom they showed themselves faithful servants.

The base attitude towards Rosa Luxemburg from senior figures, which she bore with aplomb, was more widely expressive of a growing contempt for the whole working class, a contimpt that also laid the ground for her and many other murders. The lack of open discussion was  a weapon of the leadership against the left which fought a valiant struggle for proletarian positions. The banning of discussion, the censorship of positions, the personal affiliations, cliques and the idea that the leadership of the Party was the general staff were all weaknesses that were part of and facilitated the move into the state apparatus - the absolutely ruthless state apparatus of the German bourgeoisie. 1905 and the class struggle clarified things for the left but also for the right wing that eventually supported nationalism and imperialist war.

That Kautsky could write about ehtics and much other good stuff, shows tthe fickleness and weakness of the individual mind and how the important positions taken up are those of a movement, a class.

Rosa the woman and fighter

What captures my attention in this remarkable article by Heinrich and Jens, is the image of  Rosa   Luxemburg  it creates and the way in which it brings her to life.  She jumps off the page.  I knew she was a remarkable woman, a stalwart revolutionary, a working class hero,  and  was murdered by the Freikorps - but that she was so alive and lively, always ready to fight and defend her views when wronged or misunderstood; always ready to truly speak her mind and thus to court unpopularity which she didn't cringe from; and  always ready to defend tirelessly proletarian class positions even in the teeth of opposition from the Great  White Chiefs of the SPD,  took me by surprise. I'd previously thought she was just  Rosa raised to a kind of mythical glory by communists through her writings and martyrdom.  How wrong  can you get? 

She placed political commitment to the proletarian cause above friendship.  How could she do  such a thing, do you ask?  So unfeeling; so lacking in humanity.    E. M. Forster famously said something  like:   "If I had to choose between loyalty to my friend or loyalty to my country, I hope I would choose my friend." This at the time of the First World  War when such a sentiment - reliably bourgeois at base  as it is - did not go down well.  Might even have been construed as treasonable. But Rosa went much further than this. Understanding the historic function the proletariat was called on to play in the emancipation of not just itself but the whole of humanity, she was able without fear to put her commitment to the proletarian political cause above all else - including friendship, the circle spirit, cronyism, the patronage of the great and good, even of human sexual love itself.  For after the breakdown of her relationship with Leo Jogische, though emotionally shattered by the loss, she and Leo were still able to go on functioning as comrades in the proletarian cause till her death.  Amazing and Remarkable! 

The great Kautsky befriended Rosa.  But as her clarity as to the nature of proletarian struggle intensified, and as his bessotion with party politics and theory fossilized, she began to find his friendship stifling if not repulsive. She could not go on keeping up appearances and pretending, she had to escape. For Rosa, political clarity trumped friendship.

 Kautsky, on the other hand, was able to maintain his friendship with Bernstein even though disagreeing with the latter's views about reformism, which included the idea that revolution was no longer  required for working  class emancipation.  But  Kautsky  was unwilling to spoil the friendship just for a  political  principle, even though uneasy in it, and was unable to go down Rosa's fearsome road.  The bitch, as he called her eventually.  Perhaps he knew deep down inside just how right she was. The bitch! 

But it was Rosa's amazing grasp of the significance of the Mass Strikes in Russia in 1905, and her writing this up in articles for publication, that really caused her "excommunication" from official  SPD approval and top ratings as theorist.  Not that the ability to theories about anything in depth, was highly regarded at this point in the SPD's  deterioration and legalization. But, to suddenly see, understand and analyze the significance of the "spontaneous" mass strike on the political scene, with  all its implications for the spread and development of class consciousness, and the future of mass parties like the SPD, and trades unionism, and democracy bourgeois style, and to want to publish it for all to read....well.  It was like wanting to translate the Bible from Greek and Latin into vernacular languages for everyone to read.   It just wasn't done! Publication was not approved. 

 I guess people in high and cosy positions in the SPD and the Unions trembled for their jobs.  What? The emancipation of the working class is a job for the class itself? What rubbish. What nonsense.  Kautsky protested that nothing emerging from primitive Russia could be of much use to the sophisticated German working class, with its party running for power!  Marxism was in the process of being fulfilled legally and decently in Germany.  No need for rabble on the streets.  No need for strikes outside union organization and control. Order had to be maintained. 

i suppose Rosa's fault, if fault it is, was to be way ahead of her time in Germany and Europe itself. But she wasn't ahead of the Bolsheviks and the Russian  working class.  If only things had been different. If only the war hadn't intervened. But this is not to detract from Rosa's full blooded communist humanness, theoretical insights and eternally fighting spirit.  The magnificent Rosa! 

There's so much in this

There's so much in this article. It could be a small book. I'm going to have to read it for a third and fourth time to take it all in.

One question I remember having about it when I read it last week...I was under the impression that much of Rosa Luxemburg's work was witheld from publication (or possibly, wide translation?) until years after her death. The story goes this was not only because of her radical positions, but as the article points out because she was a young, female polish jew living in the early 20th century.

Any truth to these rumors?

You're right Jamal, the

You're right Jamal, the article is so packed its like a small book.  But it's very good too. Worth unpacking. I had to read it a fifth and sixth time, so there! 

Oh! Beloved Rosa!  Not loved  by all though.  As if being female, Polish and a Jew wasn't bad enough she could actually think, and was prepared to think ( not a common human trait under capitalism!) and even worse to discuss out loud with those who new best and were her elders, what exactly she was thinking about, and, worse still, what she thought about their responses to what she was saying. None of this is a recipe for popularity, especially if you are a young upstart Jewish female from Poland.  Or even if you're  a young male  uncircumcised  upstart from somewhere more civilized.  

But I suspect it was the stuff she was saying that really freaked everyone out.  Nobody who went about criticizing the SPD, and its current ideas about "reformism"  and even its distinguished personages like Bernstein,  some of whom had known Engels, and even possibly  in some extreme cases, the venerable Marx himself (what would  Marx have made of Rosa?)  was going to get anything but a frosty reception in Berlin's hallowed halls. After all, it was one thing to help the hard working toiler in his struggle for more wages and a better life, and something else to write theoretical treatises like the remarkable Marx did, but to want practically and revolutionarily for  the working class to take charge of society, and change it, just when it was now so prosperous and making such profits and developing the world as an international market,   was at best eccentric and  at worse dangerous and against common sense, and Luxemburg was a bitch and ought to shut up.  

But she wouldn't shut up, and that was the trouble. She also had these weird ideas about the proletariat and its consciousness and was one of the few  around at that time,  who began to understand that the working class really did have to free itself as a sufficiently conscious class from capital and that nobody, not even the SPD, could do that job on its behalf and for it.  That the class for itself  had to reach a point when it finally and consciously understood its historic mission: the emancipation of itself and humanity from capitalist exploitation. And not only this but that the class itself was capable of this evolutionary breakthrough as the Mass  Strikes had shown in 1905.  

Ideas like this were not common currency in the 2nd. International as it lumbered unstoppably towards the mire of the trenches. I don't know whether comrades then knew that Marx had understood and said that "the emancipation of the working class is the task of the class itself"  but even had they known I doubt many would have been able to grasp the implications of this strange and esoteric saying of the master, and would have seen it as bordering on mysticism. But Luxemburg knew!  And Lenin knew too.