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Rosa Luxemburg

Luxemburg, Rosa (rōˈzä lŏkˈsəmbŏrk) [key], 1871–1919, German revolutionary, b. Russian Poland. Her revolutionary activities forced her to flee to Switzerland in 1889, where she became a Marxist. One of the founders of the Polish Socialist party (1892), she formed (1894) a splinter group (later known as the Social Democratic party of Poland and Lithuania). Acquiring German citizenship through marriage, after 1898 she was a leader in the German Social Democratic party (SPD). She opposed Bernstein's moderate socialism, insisting on the overthrow of capitalism. However, she disagreed with Lenin on the composition of the revolutionary classes, while anticipating his formulation on imperialism. She participated in the revolution of 1905 in Russian Poland and was active in the Second International, working with Lenin to demand socialist opposition to war, while using it for revolution. Opposing the SPD's support for the war, she formed the German Spartacus party with Karl Liebknecht. In protective custody during much of the war and released in 1918 upon the outbreak of the German revolution, she aided in the transformation of the Spartacists into the German Communist party and edited its organ, Rote Fahne. Critical of Lenin in his triumph, she foresaw his dictatorship over the proletariat becoming permanent. For their part in the Spartacist uprising in Berlin, she and Liebknecht were arrested (Jan., 1919). While being taken to prison they were killed by soldiers.

See her Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, ed. with an introd. by M. A. Waters (1970) and The National Question, ed. and tr. by H. B. Davis (1976); and biographies by J. P. Nettl (1966, abr. ed. 1989), P. Frölich (tr. 1970), S. Bonner (1987), and E. Ettinger (1987).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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