Rosa Luxemburg (also Rozalia Luxenburg; 5 March 1871 – 15 January 1919) was a Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist and revolutionary socialist of Polish-Jewish descent who became a naturalized German citizen. She was, successively, a member of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL), the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD), and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD).
- The self-discipline of the Social Democracy is not merely the replacement of the authority of bourgeois rulers with the authority of a socialist central committee. The working class will acquire the sense of the new discipline, the freely assumed self-discipline of the Social Democracy, not as a result of the discipline imposed on it by the capitalist state, but by extirpating, to the last root, its old habits of obedience and servility.
- The Russo-Japanese War now gives to all an awareness that even war and peace in Europe – its destiny – isn’t decided between the four walls of the European concert, but outside it, in the gigantic maelstrom of world and colonial politics.
And its in this that the real meaning of the current war resides for social-democracy, even if we set aside its immediate effect: the collapse of Russian absolutism. This war brings the gaze of the international proletariat back to the great political and economic connectedness of the world, and violently dissipates in our ranks the particularism, the pettiness of ideas that form in any period of political calm.
The war completely rends all the veils which the bourgeois world – this world of economic, political and social fetishism – constantly wraps us in.
The war destroys the appearance which leads us to believe in peaceful social evolution; in the omnipotence and the untouchability of bourgeois legality; in national exclusivism; in the stability of political conditions; in the conscious direction of politics by these “statesmen” or parties; in the significance capable of shaking up the world of the squabbles in bourgeois parliaments; in parliamentarism as the so-called center of social existence.
War unleashes – at the same time as the reactionary forces of the capitalist world – the generating forces of social revolution which ferment in its depths.
- "In the Storm" in Le Socialiste as translated by Mitch Abidor (1 - 8 May 1904)
- Bourgeois class domination is undoubtedly an historical necessity, but, so too, the rising of the working class against it. Capital is an historical necessity, but, so too, its grave digger, the socialist proletariat.
- The Junius Pamphlet (1915)
- Public control is indispensably necessary. Otherwise the exchange of experiences remains only with the closed circle of the officials of the new regime. Corruption becomes inevitable. (Lenin’s words, Bulletin No.29) Socialism in life demands a complete spiritual transformation in the masses degraded by centuries of bourgeois rule. Social instincts in place of egotistical ones, mass initiative in place of inertia, idealism which conquers all suffering, etc., etc. No one knows this better, describes it more penetratingly; repeats it more stubbornly than Lenin. But he is completely mistaken in the means he employs. Decree, dictatorial force of the factory overseer, draconian penalties, rule by terror – all these things are but palliatives. The only way to a rebirth is the school of public life itself, the most unlimited, the broadest democracy and public opinion. It is rule by terror which demoralizes.
- "The Problem with Dictatorship" in The Russian Revolution as translated by Bertram Wolfe (1918)
- Freedom only for the members of the government, only for the members of the Party — though they are quite numerous — is no freedom at all. Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters. The essence of political freedom depends not on the fanatics of 'justice', but rather on all the invigorating, beneficial, and detergent effects of dissenters. If 'freedom' becomes 'privilege', the workings of political freedom are broken.
- Die russische Revolution. Eine kritische Würdigung (1920) p. 109
- This contains probably her most famous statement: Freiheit ist immer Freiheit der Andersdenkenden, translated as "Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters."
Variant: Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.
- Without general elections, without freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, without the free battle of opinions, life in every public institution withers away, becomes a caricature of itself, and bureaucracy rises as the only deciding factor.
- Reported in Paul Froelich, Die Russische Revolution (1940)
- The modern proletarian class doesn't carry out its struggle according to a plan set out in some book or theory; the modern workers' struggle is a part of history, a part of social progress, and in the middle of history, in the middle of progress, in the middle of the fight, we learn how we must fight... That's exactly what is laudable about it, that's exactly why this colossal piece of culture, within the modern workers' movement, is epoch-defining: that the great masses of the working people first forge from their own consciousness, from their own belief, and even from their own understanding the weapons of their own liberation.
- "The Politics of Mass Strikes and Unions"; Collected Works 2
- The leadership has failed. Even so, the leadership can and must be recreated from the masses and out of the masses. The masses are the decisive element, they are the rock on which the final victory of the revolution will be built. The masses were on the heights; they have developed this 'defeat' into one of the historical defeats which are the pride and strength of international socialism. And that is why the future victory will bloom from this 'defeat'.
'Order reigns in Berlin!' You stupid henchmen! Your 'order' is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will already 'raise itself with a rattle' and announce with fanfare, to your terror: I was, I am, I will be!
- "Order reigns in Berlin", Last written words. Collected Works 4
- Marxism is a revolutionary worldview that must always struggle for new revelations. Marxism must abhor nothing so much as the possibility that it becomes congealed in its current form. It is at its best when butting heads in self-criticism, and in historical thunder and lightning, it retains its strength.
- As quoted in Quote Junkie : Political Edition (2008) by Hagopian Institute
Peace Utopias (1911)
- First published as Friedensutopien in Leipziger Volkszeitung (6 & 8 May 1911) Copyleft: Luxemburg Internet Archive (marxists.org) 2004. 
- What is our task in the question of peace? It does not consist merely in vigorously demonstrating at all times the love of peace of the Social Democrats; but first and foremost our task is to make clear to the masses of people the nature of militarism and sharply and clearly to bring out the differences in principle between the standpoint of the Social Democrats and that of the bourgeois peace enthusiasts.
- Die Friedensfreunde aus bürgerlichen Kreisen glauben, das sich Weltfriede und Abrüstung im Rahmen der heutigen Gesellschaftsordnung verwirklichen lassen, wir aber, die wir auf dem Boden der materialistischen Geschichtsauffassung und des wissenschaftlichen Sozialismus stehen, sind der Überzeugung, das der Militarismus erst mit dem kapitalistischen Klassenstaate zusammen aus der Welt geschafft werden kann.
- The friends of peace in bourgeois circles believe that world peace and disarmament can be realised within the frame-work 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 class state.
- 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 that 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.
- The Utopianism of the standpoint which expects an era of peace and retrenchment of militarism in the present social order is plainly revealed in the fact that it is having recourse to project making. For it is typical of Utopian strivings that, in order to demonstrate their practicability, they hatch "practical" recipes with the greatest possible details. To this also belongs the project of the "United States of Europe" as a basis for the limitation of international militarism.
- Plausible as the idea of the United States of Europe as a peace arrangement may seem to some at first glance, it has on closer examination not the least thing in common with the method of thought and the standpoint of social democracy . . . At the present stage of development of the world market and of world economy, the conception of Europe as an isolated economic unit is a sterile concoction of the brain. Europe no more forms a special unit within world economy than does Asia or America.
- The times when the centre of gravity of political development and the crystallising agent of capitalist contradictions lay on the European continent, are long gone by. To-day Europe is only a link in the tangled chain of international connections and contradictions.
The Russian Revolution (1918)
- As the entire middle class, the bourgeois and petty bourgeois intelligentsia, boycotted the Soviet government for months after the October Revolution and crippled the railroad, post and telegraph, and educational and administrative apparatus, and, in this fashion, opposed the workers government, naturally all measures of pressure were exerted against it. These included the deprivation of political rights, of economic means of existence, etc., in order to break their resistance with an iron fist. It was precisely in this way that the socialist dictatorship expressed itself, for it cannot shrink from any use of force to secure or prevent certain measures involving the interests of the whole.
Quotes about Luxemburg
- Franz Mehring, the biographer of Marx, did not exaggerate when he called Rosa Luxemburg the best brain after Marx. But she did not contribute her brain alone to the working-class movement; she gave everything she had — her heart, her passion, her strong will, her very life.
- Tony Cliff, in his Introduction to Rosa Luxemburg, Ideas in Action (1972) by Paul Frölich, p. ix
- A passion for truth made Rosa Luxemburg recoil from any dogmatic thought. In a period when Stalinism has largely turned Marxism into a dogma, spreading desolation in the field of ideas, Rosa Luxemburg's writings are invigorating and life-giving. Nothing was more intolerable to her than bowing down to "infallible authorities". As a real disciple of Marx she was able to think and act independently of her master.
- Tony Cliff, in his Introduction to Rosa Luxemburg, Ideas in Action (1972) by Paul Frölich, p. x
- During a period when so many who consider themselves Marxists sap Marxism of its deep humanistic content, no one can do more to release us from the chains of lifeless mechanistic materialism than Rosa Luxemburg. For Marx communism (or socialism) was "real humanism", "a society in which the full and free development of every individual is the ruling principle".
- Tony Cliff, in his Introduction to Rosa Luxemburg, Ideas in Action (1972) by Paul Frölich, p. x
- Rosa was saved from personal, inner disaster during the great betrayals of the First World War by several, all rather tough-minded, characteristics. She had a tenacious orthodoxy: she was perfectly confident of the sufficiency of Marxism as an answer, though she was more humane about it than Lenin. She had a warm, purely human love of people — physically, their smell and touch and comradeship. And a kind of Jewish indomitable guts, that ultimate unkillability which comes only from grandparents in yamulke and horsehair wig.
- With a will, determination, selflessness and devotion for which words are too weak, she consecrated her whole life and her whole being to Socialism. She gave herself completely to the cause of Socialism, not only in her tragic death, but throughout her whole life, daily and hourly, through the struggles of many years ... She was the sharp sword, the living flame of revolution.
- Clara Zetkin, her closest friend, as quoted in Rosa Luxemburg, Ideas in Action (1972) by Paul Frölich, p. x
- Rosa Luxemburg is an outstanding example of a type of mind that is often met with in the history of Marxism and appears to be specially attracted by the Marxist outlook. It is characterized by slavish submission to authority, together with a belief that in that submission the values of scientific thought can be preserved. No doctrine was so well suited as Marxism to satisfy both these attitudes, or to provide a mystification combining extreme dogmatism with the cult of “scientific” thinking, in which the disciple could find mental and spiritual peace. Marxism thus played the part of a religion for the intelligentsia, which did not prevent some of them, like Rosa Luxemburg herself, from trying to improve the deposit of faith by reverting to first principles, thus strengthening their own belief that they were independent of dogma.
- Polish historian and philosopher Leszek Kołakowski, Main Currents of Marxism: Volume II: The Golden Age, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1978, pp. 94-5
- Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.
As is often the case, this quote appears to be something Luxemburg could have said or written, but searches for a source have been unsuccessful. While Luxemburg often used metaphors of breaking or shattering chains, this, apparently, is not one of them.
- Brief biography at Kirjasto (Pegasos)
- Rosa Luxemburg Internet Archive a free library of her works at Marxists.org
- Biography (Study on Rosa Luxemburg ) by Tony Cliff (1959)
- Website of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation
- Rosa Luxemburg Internet Archive on Marxists.org, also available in English, see above.
- Die Rote Fahne (The Red Flag).
- Short biography
- Zur Russischen Revolution (On the Russian Revolution), 1922
- Das Leben von Rosa Luxemburg (The life of Rosa Luxemburg).