Rosa Luxemburg
The Russian Revolution

Chapter 7
The Struggle Against Corruption

A problem which is of great importance in every revolution is that of the struggle with the Lumpenproletariat. We in Germany too, as everywhere else, will have this problem to reckon with. The Lumpenproletariat element is deeply imbedded in bourgeois society. It is not merely a special section, a sort of social wastage which grows enormously when the walls of the social order are falling down, but rather an integral part of the social whole. Events in Germany – and more or less in other countries – have shown how easily all sections of bourgeois society are subject to such degeneration. The gradations between commercial profiteering, fictitious deals, adulteration of foodstuffs, cheating, official embezzlement, theft, burglary and robbery, flow into one another in such fashion that the boundary line between honorable citizenry and the penitentiary has disappeared. In this the same phenomenon is repeated as in the regular and rapid degeneration of bourgeois dignitaries when they are transplanted to an alien social soil in an overseas colonial setting. With the stripping off of conventional barriers and props for morality and law, bourgeois society itself falls victim to direct and limitless degeneration [Verlumpung], for its innermost law of life is the profoundest of immoralities, namely, the exploitation of man by man. The proletarian revolution will have to struggle with this enemy and instrument of counter-revolution on every hand.

And yet, in this connection too, terror is dull, nay, a two-edged sword. The harshest measures of martial law are impotent against outbreaks of the lumpenproletarian sickness. Indeed, every persistent regime of martial law leads inevitable to arbitrariness, and every form of arbitrariness tends to deprave society. In this regard also, the only effective means in the hands of the proletarian revolution are: radical measures of a political and social character, the speediest possible transformation of the social guarantees of the life of the masses – the kindling of revolutionary idealism, which can be maintained over any length of time only through the intensively active life of the masses themselves under conditions of unlimited political freedom.

As the free action of the sun’s rays is the most effective purifying and healing remedy against infections and disease germs, so the only healing and purifying sun is the revolution itself and its renovating principle, the spiritual life, activity and initiative of the masses which is called into being by it and which takes the form of the broadest political freedom.[1]


[1] The following section, found in the original manuscript on a seperate sheet of paper, repeat substantially the same ideas of this chapter buty in a schematic form, apparently the draft outline for this chapter:

In our case as everywhere else, anarchy will be unavoidable. The lumpenproletarian element is deeply embedded in bourgeois society and inseparable from it.


* East Prussia, the “Cossack” robberies.
* The general outbreak of robbery and theft in Germany. (Profiteering, postal and railway personnel, police, complete dissolution of boundaries between well-ordered society and penitentiary.)
* The rapid degeneration (Verlumpung) of the union leaders.

Against this, draconian measures of terror are powerless. On the contrary, they cause still further corruption. The only anti-toxin: the idealism and social activity of the masses, unlimited police freedom.

That is an overpowering objective law from which no party can be exempt.

Next: Democracy and Dictatorship

Last updated on: 17.12.2008