From International Socialism (1st series), No.96, September 1977, p.31.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg
THE aim of this book is to rescue Rosa Luxemburg from the various myths that have surrounded her even among Marxists. Norman Geras shows that Luxemburg did not believe that the victory of socialism was inevitable, despite the fact that she held, contrary to Marx, that capitalism’s contradictions would lead without fail to its economic collapse whether the outcome of this collapse was socialism or barbarism would depend on the conscious action of the working class. The book also contains one of the best discussion that I have read of the differing strategies for revolution in Russia advocated by Luxemburg, Lenin and Trotsky in the years before 1917.
Unfortunately, the overall approach of the book is very academic. This means that the author approaches each problem separately, as if it were a matter of removing a confusion of ideas by a careful reading of the texts. There is no attempt to examine Luxemburg’s theory as a whole; so there is no explicit discussion of her economic theory, nor of her rejection of the right of national self-determination to oppressed nations, nor of her theory of the party. Moreover, the author does not attempt to look at how Luxemburg’s ideas were put to the test, both during the struggle against reformism within the German Social-Democratic Party in the years leading up to the First World War, and then during the German revolution of 1918-19. The result is that the overall effect of the book is negative – it is, as Geras puts it, ‘a critique of misconceptions’, and, as such, of limited, though real, value.
Last updated: 12.1.2008