Rosa Luxemburg in mural by Susan Greene

Photo: Scott Braley

Rosa Luxemburg

Rosa Luxemburg was a German revolutionary leader, journalist, and socialist theorist, who was killed in Berlin in 1919 during the German revolution. She saw herself as a citizen of the proletariat & lived the international life of a Socialist 'pilgrim', believing that only socialism could bring true freedom and social justice. Luxemburg was the advocate of mass action, spontaneity, and workers democracy.

Rosa Luxemburg was born in Zamosc, in Russian Poland, into a Jewish middle-class family. At the age of five she became seriously ill. After recovering she walked with a limp; sciatic pain caused her much trouble for her whole life. Luxemburg was educated at the Warsaw Gimnazium. From the age of 16 she participated in revolutionary activities. During these years her favorite writer was the Polish poet Adam Mickeimicz, whose patriotism and life in political exile influenced her deeply. In 1889 Luxemburg moved to Switzerland to continue her studies. But she was also partly forced to flee from her home country because of her political activities.

At the outbreak of World War I, she and the German socialist Karl Liebknecht formed a revolutionary faction within the SPD (German Social Democratic Party) that became known as the Spartacists. Because of her vociferous opposition to the war, she was imprisoned; after her release in November 1918 she helped to transform the Spartacists into the Communist party of Germany. Luxemburg reluctantly took part in the unsuccessful Spartacist uprising against the government in January 1919, and both she and Liebknecht were arrested and murdered by German troops on the 15th of that month.

Rosa Luxemburg photo

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More: Writings by Rosa Luxemburg and Her Biography