Main NI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Socialist Appeal, 2 April 1938

Rosa Luxemburg

The Meaning of Pacifism

(May 1911)

From Socialist Appeal (Supplement), Vol. II No. 14, 2 April 1938, p. 3-A.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Rosa Luxemburg, co-leader with Karl Liebknecht of the German Spartakusbund, was one of that small, valiant band of revolutionary internationalists who raised their voices against the imperialist slaughter of 1914–18. For her devotion to the cause of the socialist revolution, her refusal to join the social-patriots of the Second International in aiding the imperialists to prosecute the robber war, Rosa paid with her life. Together with Karl Liebknecht she was foully murdered on January 15, 1919, by the German government at whose head stood the social-patriotic traitors Ebert, Noske and Scheidemann. The ideas embodied in the following brief article by Rosa Luxemburg, written three years prior to the commencement of the World War, must be assimilated by every worker who is anxious to struggle, and struggle effectively, against the new imperialist slaughter which is now impending. – Ed.

The friends of peace in bourgeois circles believe that world peace and disarmament can be realized within the framework of the present social order, whereas we, who base ourselves on the materialistic conception of history and on scientific socialism, are convinced that militarism can only be abolished from the world with the destruction, of the capitalist, state ... The bourgeois friends of peace are endeavoring – and from their point of view this is perfectly logical and explicable – to invent all sorts of “practical” projects for gradually restraining militarism, and are naturally inclined to consider every outward apparent sign of a tendency towards peace as the genuine article, to take every expression of the ruling diplomacy in this vein at its word, to exaggerate it into a basis for earnest activity.

The Social-Democrats (read revolutionary socialists – Ed.) on the other hand, must consider it their duty in this matter, just as in all matters of social criticism, to expose the bourgeois attempts to restrain militarism as pitiful half-measures and the expressions of such sentiments on the part of the governing circles as diplomatic make-believe, and to oppose the bourgeois claims and pretences with the ruthless analysis of capitalist reality ...

Militarism in both its forms – as war and as armed peace – is a legitimate child, a logical result of capitalism, which can only be overcome with the destruction of capitalism, and hence whoever honestly desires world peace and liberation from the tremendous burden of armaments must also desire socialism. Only in this way can real Social-Democratic enlightenment and recruiting be carried on in connection with the armaments debate.

This work, however, will be rendered somewhat difficult and the attitude of the Social-Democrats will become obscure and vacillating, if, by some strange exchange of roles, our party tries, on the contrary, to convince the bourgeois state that it can quite well limit armaments and bring about peace and that it can do this from its own standpoint, from that of a capitalist class state.

Leipziger Volkszeitung, May 6–8, 1911

Top of page

Main Militant Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 30 July 2015