I am writing with some notes on our readings from Luxemburg and Trotsky on the Bolshevik Revolution and the greater revolutionary crisis of 1917-19.
I will discuss the relation of Lenin, Luxemburg and Trotsky in the revolutionary period under consideration.
Our recent discussions of 1917-19 has taken 2 parts, Luxemburg’s Spartacus writings from the German Revolution of 1918, and now Trotsky on The Lessons of October (1924) and Luxemburg’s writing on the Bolshevik Revolution and its trajectory, “The Russian Tragedy” (1918) and her final writing before being murdered by counterrevolutionaries, “Order Reigns in Berlin” (1919).
Rather provocatively, I would say that I am entirely happy to approach the Bolshevik Revolution exclusively through Luxemburg’s eyes. Her well known pamphlet on The Russian Revolution (1918), which she wrote while in prison, smuggled out, but asked her comrades Clara Zetkin and Paul Levi to destroy when she was released because she found certain of its formulations to be in error regarding actual events, re-writing and publishing her critique of the Bolsheviks’ policies in the Russian Revolution in the text we read, “The Russian Tragedy,” is misleading in a variety of respects. The reason more people read her unpublished and personally repudiated pamphlet instead of her actually published article is because Luxemburg has been abused in opposition to Lenin and Trotsky.
Another text we could read by Luxemburg from late 1918, which is available on marxists.org, is titled “German Bolshevism,” and thus leaves no doubt of her close identification with the Bolsheviks’ revolutionary project, whatever critiques she might have had of certain actions and policies of the Lenin and Trotsky:
Furthermore I would go so far as to say that Lenin and Trotsky would have hardly disagreed with what Luxemburg was saying in “The Russian Tragedy” (or in The Russian Revolution pamphlet, for that matter), but would only dispute certain points.
The history of the posthumous publication of the subsequently more widely read Luxemburg pamphlet on The Russian Revolution is disreputable and needs to be kept in mind when considering the actual nature and character of whatever criticisms of the Bolsheviks Luxemburg had.
Paul Levi published Luxemburg’s pamphlet in an attempt to embarrass the Bolsheviks/Russian Communist Party in the 3rd International when Levi departed from the German Communist Party over a proposed attempt to seize power in 1920. Lenin replied to Levi’s publication of Luxemburg’s pamphlet as follows, and this bears upon the discussion of the political “party question” in Trotsky’s Lessons of October:
“The process of transforming the old type of European parliamentary party — which in fact is reformist and only slightly tinted with revolutionary colours — into a new type of party, into a genuinely revolutionary, genuinely Communist Party, is an extremely arduous one. This is demonstrated most clearly, perhaps, by the example of France. The process of changing the type of Party work in everyday life, of getting it out of the humdrum channel; the process of converting the Party into the vanguard of the revolutionary proletariat without permitting it to become divorced from the masses, but, on the contrary, by linking it more and more closely with them, imbuing them with revolutionary consciousness and rousing them for the revolutionary struggle, is a very difficult, but most important one. If the European Communists do not take advantage of the intervals (probably very short) between the periods of particularly acute revolutionary battles — such as took place in many capitalist countries of Europe and America in 1921 and the beginning of 1922 — for the purpose of bringing about this fundamental, internal, profound reorganisation of the whole structure of their Parties and of their work, they will be committing the gravest of crimes. Fortunately, there is no reason to fear this. The quiet, steady, calm, not very rapid, but profound work of creating genuine Communist Parties, genuine revolutionary vanguards of the proletariat, has begun and is proceeding in Europe and America. . . .
“Paul Levi now wants to get into the good graces of the bourgeoisie — and, consequently, of its agents, the Second and the Two-and-a-Half Internationals — by republishing precisely those writings of Rosa Luxemburg in which she was wrong. We shall reply to this by quoting two lines from a good old Russian fable: ‘Eagles may at times fly lower than hens, but hens can never rise to the height of eagles.’ Rosa Luxemburg was mistaken on the question of the independence of Poland; she was mistaken in 1903 in her appraisal of Menshevism; she was mistaken on the theory of the accumulation of capital; she was mistaken in July 1914, when, together with Plekhanov, Vandervelde, Kautsky and others, she advocated unity between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks; she was mistaken in what she wrote in prison in 1918 (she corrected most of these mistakes at the end of 1918 and the beginning of 1919 after she was released). But in spite of her mistakes she was — and remains for us — an eagle. And not only will Communists all over the world cherish her memory, but her biography and her complete works (the publication of which the German Communists are inordinately delaying, which can only be partly excused by the tremendous losses they are suffering in their severe struggle) will serve as useful manuals for training many generations of Communists all over the world. ‘Since August 4, 1914 German Social-Democracy has been a stinking corpse’ — this statement will make Rosa Luxemburg’s name famous in the history of the international working class movement. And, of course, in the backyard of the working-class movement, among the dung heaps, hens like Paul Levi, Scheidemann, Kautsky and all that fraternity will cackle over the mistakes committed by the great Communist. To every man his own.”
In particular, Luxemburg’s seemingly eloquently impassioned defense of “democracy” against the Bolsheviks’ supposed suppression in The Russian Revolution is not reiterated by her in her published article on “The Russian Tragedy.” This is because she changed her estimation of the significance of the Bolsheviks’ dispersal of the Constituent Assembly, which she no longer judged to be an undemocratic move. Moreover, she opposed calls for a Constituent Assembly in the German Revolution, which she regarded as counterrevolutionary, and instead adopted the Bolsheviks’ slogan of “all power to the [workers' councils/soviets]!” She explicitly stated in her correspondence that she felt her criticism of the Bolsheviks’ supposed violation of democracy had been due to the misrepresentation and distortion of events in the German journalism to which she had access while imprisoned. Hence her opinion changed in light of actual events, both as reported from Russia, and in the context of the revolutionary trajectory of 1917-18/19.
Luxemburg’s critique of the Bolsheviks in her writings on the Russian Revolution is centered on a couple of questions: 1.) the peace treaty with Germany at Brest-Litovsk; 2.) and the sanctioning of the break-up of the land into small private-property plots by the peasants. She considered these, as the Bolsheviks themselves did, to be concessions made of necessity and under duress, but thought the Bolsheviks conceded too much. So these were disagreements of judgment over tactical issues and not differences in principle. Luxemburg’s disagreements with Lenin and Trotsky did not go beyond those disagreements that existed within the Bolshevik/Russian Communist Party itself, and this important truth needs to be borne in mind. Aspects of such questions relate to the problem of the relation of “bourgeois-democratic” demands to the revolutionary anticapitalist politics of proletarian socialism as understood by Marxists (which I will address, below, on the evolution of Trotsky’s conception of “permanent revolution” about which we read in his 1906 pamphlet Results and Prospects, and the political convergence of Lenin and Trotsky in 1917).
Trotsky’s writing on The Lessons of October (1924) focuses on just those differences that manifested among the Bolsheviks on the eve and in the event of the October 1917 Revolution in which they overthrew the Provisional Government in Russia.
Trotsky’s publication of The Lessons of October in 1924 (which was an introduction to the publication of his speeches from 1917) initiated what was known at the time as the “literary debate,” over the historiography of the Bolshevik Revolution. This was important in the first case because of the failure of the revolutions outside Russia that had taken place in the wake of the October Revolution, in Germany and Hungary (and in working class social-revolutionary actions in Italy, etc.).
In calling attention to the Bolsheviks’ own self-understanding of the October Revolution and its significance, before, during and after the event, Trotsky echoes the concerns of what Lenin wrote previously in “Left-Wing” Communism — An Infantile Disorder (1920), in the first section, “In What Sense we can Speak of the International Significance of the Russian Revolution:”
“In the first months after the proletariat in Russia had won political power (October 25 [November 7], 1917), it might have seemed that the enormous difference between backward Russia and the advanced countries of Western Europe would lead to the proletarian revolution in the latter countries bearing very little resemblance to ours. We now possess quite considerable international experience, which shows very definitely that certain fundamental features of our revolution have a significance that is not local, or peculiarly national, or Russian alone, but international. I am not speaking here of international significance in the broad sense of the term: not merely several but all the primary features of our revolution, and many of its secondary features, are of international significance in the meaning of its effect: on all countries. I am speaking of it in the narrowest sense of the word, taking international significance to mean the international validity or the historical inevitability of a repetition, on an international scale, of what has taken place in our country. It must be admitted that certain fundamental features of our revolution do possess that significance.
“It would, of course, be grossly erroneous to exaggerate this truth and to extend it beyond certain fundamental features of our revolution. It would also be erroneous to lose sight of the fact that, soon after the victory of the proletarian revolution in at least one of the advanced countries, a sharp change will probably come about: Russia will cease to be the model and will once again become a backward country (in the “Soviet” and the socialist sense).
“At the present moment in history, however, it is the Russian model that reveals to all countries something — and something highly significant — of their near and inevitable future. Advanced workers in all lands have long realised this; more often than not, they have grasped it with their revolutionary class instinct rather than realised it. Herein lies the international “significance” (in the narrow sense of the word) of Soviet power, and of the fundamentals of Bolshevik theory and tactics. The “revolutionary” leaders of the Second International, such as Kautsky in Germany and Otto Bauer and Friedrich Adler in Austria, have failed to understand this, which is why they have proved to be reactionaries and advocates of the worst kind of opportunism and social treachery.”
As Luxemburg wrote, in “The Russian Tragedy,”
“The awkward position that the Bolsheviks are in today, however, is, together with most of their mistakes, a consequence of basic insolubility of the problem posed to them by he international, above all the German, proletariat. To carry out the dictatorship of the proletariat and a socialist revolution in a single country surrounded by reactionary imperialist rule and in the fury of the bloodiest world war in human history — that is squaring the circle. Any socialist party would have to fail in this task and perish — whether or not it made self-renunciation the guiding star of its policies.
“We would like to see the spineless jelly-fish, the moaners, the [Mensheviks] Axelrods, Dans, Grigoryanz or whatever their name are, who, mouths frothing, sing their plaintive song against the Bolsheviks in foreign lands. And — just look! — they have found a sympathetic ear in such heroes as . . . Bernstein and Kautsky; we would like to see these Germans in the Bolsheviks’ place! All their superior understanding would rapidly exhaust itself in an alliance with the Milyukovs in domestic policy and with the Entente in foreign policy; to this would be added a conscious renunciation of all socialist reforms, or even of any move in this direction, in domestic policy — all this due to the conscious eunuch wisdom that says Russia is an agricultural country and Russian capitalism is not adequately cooked.”
Despite attempts to make her out to be so, Luxemburg was no Menshevik. She was a Bolshevik, in all the ways that count. This is why she joined the Bolsheviks in forming the 3rd, Communist International. What Kautsky, like the Mensheviks, feared and hated about the Bolshevik Revolution was that it advanced the necessity of revolution, it unleashed a revolutionary process that needed to be fulfilled successfully in order to avoid worse results: it made the choice of “socialism or barbarism” a practical reality.
Luxemburg embraced the Bolshevik Revolution because of the pressure of revolutionary necessity it applied to Germany. But the revolution that resulted in Germany failed, and Luxemburg and her comrades were killed — in Kautsky’s hypocritical view, which deemed the revolution in both Russia and Germany as “premature,” this was because, like the Bolsheviks, Luxemburg had recklessly played with fire in calling for workers’ revolution in Germany in 1918-19.
* * *
The question of what could and should be learned from the experience of the Bolsheviks in 1917 was of primary importance and yet had been glossed by the Bolsheviks themselves. As Trotsky put it at the beginning of The Lessons of October, in “We Must Study the October Revolution:”
“We met with success in the October Revolution, but the October Revolution has met with little success in our press. Up to the present time we lack a single work which gives a comprehensive picture of the October upheaval and puts the proper stress upon its most important political and organizational aspects. Worse yet, even the available firsthand material — including the most important documents — directly pertaining to the various particulars of the preparation for the revolution, or the revolution itself remains unpublished as yet. Numerous documents and considerable material have been issued bearing on the pre-October history of the revolution and the pre-October history of the party; we have also issued much material and many documents relating to the post October period. But October itself has received far less attention. Having achieved the revolution, we seem to have concluded that we should never have to repeat it. It is as if we thought that no immediate and direct benefit for the unpostponable tasks of future constructive work could be derived from the study of October; the actual conditions of the direct preparation for it; the actual accomplishment of it; and the work of consolidating it during the first few weeks.
“Such an approach — though it may be subconscious — is, however, profoundly erroneous, and is, moreover, narrow and nationalistic. We ourselves may never have to repeat the experience of the October Revolution, but this does not at all imply that we have nothing to learn from that experience. We are a part of the International, and the workers in all other countries are still faced with the solution of the problem of their own ‘October.’ Last year we had ample proof that the most advanced Communist parties of the West had not only failed to assimilate our October experience but were virtually ignorant of the actual facts.
“To be sure, the objection may be raised that it is impossible to study October or even to publish documents relating to October without the risk of stirring up old disagreements. But such an approach to the question would be altogether petty. The disagreements of 1917 were indeed very profound, and they were not by any means accidental. But nothing could be more paltry than an attempt to turn them now, after a lapse of several years, into weapons of attack against those who were at that time mistaken. It would be, however, even more inadmissible to remain silent as regards the most important problems of the October Revolution, which are of international significance, on account of trifling personal considerations.”
I would underscore Trotsky’s emphasis on the “problems” of the Bolsheviks in the October Revolution, which were expressed in what Trotsky calls “profound disagreements.”
These disagreements had to do with the nature and character of the revolutionary crisis in Russia, whether it portended the possibility of participating in an international struggle for socialism or was destined to be merely a “bourgeois-democratic” revolution. But, less disagreements of principle in and of themselves, they were over how to pursue tasks of emancipatory politics in the Russian Revolution, whether or not Marxists needed to wait until the fulfillment of liberal-democratic struggles before being able to struggle for socialism. This was not a matter of conceptual schema but of judgment within a rapidly changing situation, of what was perhaps going too far vs. not far enough in one’s actions, and how one understood this in terms of theory.
This harks back to Lenin’s discussion, in What is to be done? (1902), of the importance of theoretical struggles, which might otherwise seem scholastic and of little actual political importance. Trotsky’s point in The Lessons of October, as Lenin’s was in What is to be done?, is that theoretical differences can have profound practical political implications, because it affects what one thinks one is doing — and hence affects what one is doing.
Beginning in April 1917, with his famous return to Russia at the Finland Station, Lenin began a ruthless critique of Bolshevik policy, calling for “all power to the soviets!” while the Bolsheviks had been supporting the Provisional Government that had issued from the deposing of the Tsar in the revolution of February 1917.
The Bolsheviks who heard Lenin’s speech at the Finland Station thought that Lenin had lost his mind. The opponents of the Bolsheviks relished what they thought was Lenin’s ultra-Leftism, which they hoped would condemn the Bolsheviks to not playing any role in the revolution, which they considered to be of an entirely liberal/bourgeois-democratic character in its possibilities.
In declaring that the struggle for socialism was on in Russia, Lenin seemed to have transgressed the prior Bolshevik perspective of a “revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants” that might and indeed had broken out. The Bolsheviks had thought that such a “bourgeois-democratic” revolution would be a potential spark for a workers’ socialist revolution in Europe, which then might only subsequently allow a struggle for socialism in Russia.
This is the famous controversy over the “stage theory” of revolution (in Russia), which came back to haunt the international Communist movement in its later Stalinization. — Related to this is the “peasant question,” or the peasants as a “revolutionary class” in the revolution, which lied behind so much mischief in liquidating a Marxian perspective in the history of Stalinized “Communism” (i.e., Maoism).
The point for Marxists, as Lenin recognized, was how to enlist liberal/”bourgeois-democratic” grievances and demands into the struggle for socialism, or, looked at another way, how to secure the working class’s leadership of democratic struggles so that they could be tied into the workers’ struggles against capitalism.
For the development of capitalism had left a great deal of such democratic demands (of “bourgeois rights”) unfulfilled. Moreover, as Trotsky had pointed out in Results and Prospects (1906) the “prerequisites of socialism” not only worked together but also mitigated and undermined each other: this was Trotsky’s theory of how capitalism, in its crisis beginning in the mid-19th Century had become, as he followed from Marx, “overripe” for the struggle for proletarian socialism. — Such a perspective also lied behind Luxemburg’s notion, following an earlier statement by Engels, that humanity faced a choice of “socialism or barbarism,” and not a choice of a complacent liberal status quo under capitalism or a struggle for socialism. This was manifested, glaringly, in how capitalism had developed in Russia by 1917 — indeed by the time of the 1905 Revolution, in which Trotsky had been an important leader. — Trotsky recognized in Results and Prospects how the development of capitalism in Russia undermined the possibilities for liberal-democratic struggles and made the struggle for proletarian socialism both more possible and more necessary.
As Marx had put it in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), on the failure of the 1848 Revolution in France,
“The small-holding peasants form an enormous mass whose members live in similar conditions but without entering into manifold relations with each other. Their mode of production isolates them from one another instead of bringing them into mutual intercourse. The isolation is furthered by France’s poor means of communication and the poverty of the peasants. Their field of production, the small holding, permits no division of labor in its cultivation, no application of science, and therefore no multifariousness of development, no diversity of talent, no wealth of social relationships. Each individual peasant family is almost self-sufficient, directly produces most of its consumer needs, and thus acquires its means of life more through an exchange with nature than in intercourse with society. A small holding, the peasant and his family; beside it another small holding, another peasant and another family. A few score of these constitute a village, and a few score villages constitute a department. Thus the great mass of the French nation is formed by the simple addition of homologous magnitudes, much as potatoes in a sack form a sack of potatoes. Insofar as millions of families live under conditions of existence that separate their mode of life, their interests, and their culture from those of the other classes, and put them in hostile opposition to the latter, they form a class. Insofar as there is merely a local interconnection among these small-holding peasants, and the identity of their interests forms no community, no national bond, and no political organization among them, they do not constitute a class. They are therefore incapable of asserting their class interest in their own name, whether through a parliament or a convention. They cannot represent themselves, they must be represented. Their representative must at the same time appear as their master, as an authority over them, an unlimited governmental power which protects them from the other classes and sends them rain and sunshine from above. The political influence of the small-holding peasants, therefore, finds its final expression in the executive power which subordinates society to itself.”
This is the essential Marxian characterization of the “petit-bourgeois” character of the peasantry, which might be termed as well “proto-bourgeois” or “pre-proletarian.”
Nevertheless, this raises the question of what relation proletarian socialism has to such “petit-bourgeois” elements. In Trotsky’s “permanent revolution” perspective or Luxemburg’s more “orthodox” 2nd Intl. Marxist conception, it is a problem of the workers leading the struggle in the greater society for bourgeois-democratic rights for all its members, and thus demonstrating how capitalism undermines its own avowed “liberal” claims. For Lenin, the question becomes a matter of “how” the workers could lead the peasants (et al.). While this problem remained largely abstract for Luxemburg, Trotsky, et al. (i.e., the so-called “old Bolsheviks” who, like the Mensheviks, et al., had reacted in horror at Lenin’s supposed “ultra-Leftism” after April 1917 and thought that the October Revolution was potentially “adventurist” folly), with Lenin it takes on a more practical aspect, concretely unfolding as a matter of the role of the peasants in the trajectory of the revolution in Russia in 1917.
It is in this sense, of the unfolding of the revolution, that Lenin’s judgment becomes exemplary, and Trotsky inquires as to its possibilities and preconditions. Trotsky’s point is that the necessary flexibility of judgment under changing events can only be had by way of a well organized and disciplined political party that can remain a coherent actor through the sharp turns and reversals that are inevitable in an actual revolution. The corollary of this organizational strength at an individual level resolves as a matter of theoretical sophistication, so that one does not become conceptually blindsided. The way theory and practice relate is through the political activity within and outside the party in which the issues are fought out. Both the individuals and the organizations of which they are a part need to be able to survive the straining demands of such political struggles. Recognizing how the prior history of the Bolshevik faction had prepared them for the role they played in the successful workers’ revolution in Russia in October 1917 allowed Trotsky to derive certain lessons from the experience in which he had joined them.
Part of what Trotsky had to answer in his writing The Lessons of October is whether, to what extent and how he and Lenin had found agreement in 1917 and collaborated so successfully in the October Revolution. The reconciling of their theoretical perspectives had to be characterized sufficiently. — Had Lenin become a “Trotskyist” in calling for “all power to the soviets!” in April 1917, or had Trotsky become a “Leninist” in joining the Bolshevik organization? In fact, both were the case.
What made the Bolshevik Revolution possible was the organizational and theoretical sophistication that allowed them to mold events and not be condemned to only chasing (“tailing”) after them — or being blindsided by them. The history of the Left ever since 1917 has been one of the endless repetition of such failure, defeat in opportunism, and theoretical and practical liquidation that results from adapting to failure.
As Trotsky put it in conclusion to The Lessons of October,
“History secured for our party revolutionary advantages that are truly inestimable. The traditions of the heroic struggle against the tsarist monarchy; the habituation to revolutionary self-sacrifice bound up with the conditions of underground activity; the broad theoretical study and assimilation of the revolutionary experience of humanity; the struggle against Menshevism, against the Narodniks, and against conciliationism; the supreme experience of the 1905 revolution; the theoretical study and assimilation of this experience during the years of counterrevolution; the examination of the problems of the international labor movement in the light of the revolutionary lessons of 1905 — these were the things which in their totality gave our party an exceptional revolutionary temper, supreme theoretical penetration, and unparalleled revolutionary sweep. Nevertheless, even within this party, among its leaders, on the eve of decisive action there was formed a group of experienced revolutionists, Old Bolsheviks, who were in sharp opposition to the proletarian revolution and who, in the course of the most critical period of the revolution from February 1917 to approximately February 1918, adopted on all fundamental questions an essentially social democratic position. It required Lenin, and Lenin’s exceptional influence in the party, unprecedented even at that time, to safeguard the party and the revolution against the supreme confusion following from such a situation. This must never be forgotten if we wish other Communist parties to learn anything from us.
“The question of selecting the leading staff is of exceptional importance to the parties of Western Europe. The experience of the abortive German October is shocking proof of this. But this selection must proceed in the light of revolutionary action. During these recent years, Germany has provided ample opportunities for the testing of the leading party members in moments of direct struggle. Failing this criterion, the rest is worthless. . . . A careful study of such acute episodes provides irreplaceable material for the evaluation of a party leadership, the conduct of various party organs, and individual leading members. To ignore these lessons and not to draw the necessary conclusions from them as to the choice of personalities is to invite inevitable defeats; for without a penetrating, resolute, and courageous party leadership, the victory of the proletarian revolution is impossible.
“Each party, even the most revolutionary party, must inevitably produce its own organizational conservatism; for otherwise it would lack the necessary stability. This is wholly a question of degree. In a revolutionary party the vitally necessary dose of conservatism must be combined with a complete freedom from routine, with initiative in orientation and daring in action. These qualities are put to the severest test during turning points in history. We have already quoted the words of Lenin to the effect that even the most revolutionary parties, when an abrupt change occurs in a situation and when new tasks arise as a consequence, frequently pursue the political line of yesterday and thereby become, or threaten to become, a brake upon the revolutionary process. Both conservatism and revolutionary initiative find their most concentrated expression in the leading organs of the party. In the meantime, the European Communist parties have still to face their sharpest “turning point” — the turn from preparatory work to the actual seizure of power. This turn is the most exacting, the most unpostponable, the most responsible, and the most formidable. To miss the moment for the turn is to incur the greatest defeat that a party can possibly suffer.
“The experience of the European struggles, and above all the struggles in Germany, when looked at in the light of our own experience, tells us that there are . . . leaders who incline to drag the party back at the very moment when it must take a stupendous leap forward. Some among them generally tend to see mainly the difficulties and obstacles in the way of revolution, and to estimate each situation with a preconceived, though not always conscious, intention of avoiding any action. Marxism in their hands is turned into a method for establishing the impossibility of revolutionary action. The purest specimens of this type are the Russian Mensheviks. But this type as such is not confined to Menshevism, and at the most criticial moment it suddenly manifests itself in responsible posts in the most revolutionary party. . . .
“Meanwhile, the entire preparatory work is of value only to the extent that it renders the party and above all its leading organs capable of determining the moment for an insurrection, and of assuming the leadership of it. For the task of the Communist Party is the conquest of power for the purpose of reconstructing society.
“Much has been spoken and written lately on the necessity of ‘Bolshevizing’ the Comintern. This is a task that cannot be disputed or delayed; it is made particularly urgent after the cruel lessons of Bulgaria and Germany a year ago [in 1923]. Bolshevism is not a doctrine (i.e., not merely a doctrine) but a system of revolutionary training for the proletarian uprising. What is the Bolshevization of Communist parties? It is giving them such a training, and effecting such a selection of the leading staff, as would prevent them from drifting when the hour for their October strikes. ‘That is the whole of Hegel, and the wisdom of books, and the meaning of all philosophy. . . .’ ”
– The point is that the German Revolution was defeated as a function of the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and her comrades Karl Liebknecht et al., from which the German Communist Party never recovered. Just as Lenin (and Trotsky) had proven indispensably key for the victory of the workers’ revolution in Russia, so did Luxemburg et al., in the negative sense of the absence of their theoretical and practical leadership. At the decisive moment in 1919 they lacked an adequate organization; subsequently, though the KPD grew enormously organizationally powerful, like the SPD before it, it ended up amounting to nothing, because it could not exercise the necessary revolutionary leadership in action that might have been provided precisely through the theoretical consciousness of Rosa Luxemburg and her comrades.