Rosa Luxemburg

The Socialisation of Society

(December 1918)

Written: December 1918.
Source: Gesammelte Werke, Berlin (GDR) 1970-75, Vol.4, pp.431-34.
First Published: Die junge Garde (Berlin), No 2,4, December 1918.
Translated: Dave Hollis | Alternate Translation: What is Bolshevism?.
Online Version: 1996; 1999.
Transcription/Markup: Dave Hollis/Brian Baggins.

[Document Introduction]

The proletarian revolution that has now begun can have no other goal and no other result than the realisation of socialism. The working class must above all else strive to get the entire political power of the state into its own hands. Political power, however, is for us socialists only a means. The end for which we must use this power is the fundamental transformation of the entire economic relations.

Currently all wealth – the largest and best estates as well as the mines, works and the factories – belongs to a few Junkers and private capitalists. The great mass of the workers only get from these Junkers and capitalists a meagre wage to live on for hard work. The enrichment of a small number of idlers is the aim of today’s economy.

This state of affairs should be remedied. All social wealth, the land with all its natural resources hidden in its bowels and on the surface, and all factories and works must be taken out of the hands of the exploiters and taken into common property of the people. The first duty of a real workers’ government is to declare by means of a series of decrees the most important means of production to be national property and place them under the control of society.

Only then, however, does the real and most difficult task begin: the reconstruction of the economy on a completely new basis.

At the moment production in every enterprise is conducted by individual capitalists on their own initiative. What – and in which way – is to be produced, where, when and how the produced goods are to be sold is determined by the industrialist. The workers do not see to all this, they are just living machines who have to carry out their work.

In a socialist economy this must be completely different! The private employer will disappear. Then no longer production aims towards the enrichment of one individual, but of delivering to the public at large the means of satisfying all its needs. Accordingly the factories, works and the agricultural enterprises must be reorganised according to a new way of looking at things:

Firstly: if production is to have the aim of securing for everyone a dignified life, plentiful food and providing other cultural means of existence, then the productivity of labour must be a great deal higher than it is now. The land must yield a far greater crop, the most advanced technology must be used in the factories, only the most productive coal and ore mines must be exploited, etc. It follows from this that socialisation will above all extend to the large enterprises in industry and agriculture. We do not need and do not want to dispossess the small farmer and craftsman eking out a living with a small plot of land or workshop. In time they will all come to us voluntarily and will recognise the merits of socialism as against private property.

Secondly: in order that everyone in society can enjoy prosperity, everybody must work. Only somebody who performs some useful work for the public at large, whether by hand or brain, can be entitled to receive from society the means for satisfying his needs. A life of leisure like most of the rich exploiters currently lead will come to an end. A general requirement to work for all who are able to do so, from which small children, the aged and sick are exempted, is a matter of course in a socialist economy. The public at large must provide forthwith for those unable to work – not like now with paltry alms but with generous provision, socialised child-raising, enjoyable care for the elderly, public health care for the sick, etc.

Thirdly, in accordance with same outlook, i.e. for the general well-being, one must sensibly manage and be economic with both the means of production and labour. The squandering that currently takes place wherever one goes must stop. Naturally, the entire war and munitions industries must be abolished since a socialist society does not need murder weapons and, instead, the valuable materials and human labour used in them must be employed for useful products. Luxury industries which make all kinds of frippery for the idle rich must also be abolished , along with personal servants. All the human labour tied up here will be found a more worthy and useful occupation.

If we establish in this way a nation of workers, where everybody works for everyone, for the public good and benefit, then work itself must be organised quite differently. Nowadays work in industry, in agriculture and in the office is mostly a torment and a burden for the proletarians. One only goes to work because one has to, because one would not otherwise get the means to live. In a socialist society, where everyone works together for their own well being, the health of the workforce and its enthusiasm for work must be given the greatest consideration at work. Short working hours that do not exceed the normal capability, healthy workrooms, all methods of recuperation and a variety of work must be introduced in order that everyone enjoys doing their part.

All these great reforms, however, call for a corresponding human material. Currently the capitalist, his works foreman or supervisor stands behind the worker with his whip. Hunger drives the proletarian to work in the factory or in the office, for the Junker or the big farmer. The employers take care that time is not frittered away nor material wasted, and that both good and efficient work is delivered.

In a socialist society the industrialist with his whip ceases to exist. The workers are free and equal human beings who work for their own well-being and benefit. That means by themselves, working on their own initiative, not wasting public wealth, and delivering the most reliable and meticulous work. Every socialist concern needs of course its technical managers who know exactly what they are doing and give the directives so that everything runs smoothly and the best division of labour and the highest efficiency is achieved. Now it is a matter of willingly following these orders in full, of maintaining discipline and order, of not causing difficulties or confusion.

In a word: the worker in a socialist economy must show that he can work hard and properly, keep discipline and give his best without the whip of hunger and without the capitalist and his slave-driver behind him. This calls for inner self-discipline, intellectual maturity, moral ardour, a sense of dignity and responsibility, a complete inner rebirth of the proletarian.

One cannot realise socialism with lazy, frivolous, egoistic, thoughtless and indifferent human beings. A socialist society needs human beings from whom each one in his place, is full of passion and enthusiasm for the general well-being, full of self-sacrifice and sympathy for his fellow human beings, full of courage and tenacity in order to dare to attempt the most difficult.

We do not need, however, to wait perhaps a century or a decade until such a species of human beings develop. Right now, in the struggle, in the revolution, the mass of the proletarians learn the necessary idealism and soon acquire the intellectual maturity. We also need courage and endurance, inner clarity and self-sacrifice, to at all be able to lead the revolution to victory. In enlisting capable fighters for the current revolution, we are also creating the future socialist workers which a new order requires as its fundament.

The working class youth is particularly well-qualified for these great tasks. As the future generation they will indeed, quite certainly, already constitute the real foundation of the socialist economy. It is already now its job to demonstrate that it is equal to the great task of being the bearer of the humanity’s future. An entire old world still needs overthrowing and an entirely new one needs constructing. But we will do it young friends, won’t we? We will do it! Just as it says in the song:

We surely lack nothing, my wife, my child,
except all that which through us prospers,
to be as free as the birds:
only the time!


Introduction: The question of how a future socialist society may look is scarcely found in the Marxist literature. Rosa Luxemburg took up this question in an article written in the heat of the revolution, in December 1918. It was reproduced in various newspapers and journals: in the Hamburger Volkszeitung on 20th December 1918, in the Jugend-Internationale (Stuttgart) on 28th December under the title German Bolshevism and in the Volksblatt (Halle/Saale) on 6th Janurary 1919 under the title Nationalisation [Vergesellschaftung].

Last updated on: 17.12.2008