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Fourth International, Autumn 1959


Rosa Luxemburg

On Lenin and Trotsky


From Fourth International, No. 7, Autumn 1959, p. 24.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Rosa Luxemburg, born in 1871, indisputably ranks among the dozen greatest revolutionary Marxist leaders of history. One of the founders in 1893 of the Polish Social-Democratic Party, redoubtable opponent of Bernsteinian revisionism, heroic anti-war prisoner, co-founder of the German Spartakists, one of the founders of the German Communist Party and editor of its organ, the Rote Fahne, tragic martyr to Social-Democrat-inspired assassination in 1919, and always a principled and original theoretician – Rosa may be termed an independent ally of the Russian Bolsheviks. She supported them against the Mensheviks at the 1907 congress in London; and joined Lenin in introducing the anti-war resolution at the Stuttgart Congress. But she differed from them in her conception of the nature of the party and the importance of mass spontaneity. Her tribute quoted below is thus all the more impressive. It will be noted that to her, as to practically all the genuine revolutionaries of that period, “Lenin and Trotsky” formed almost a hyphenated word, and, with the addition of “with their friends,” summarized the Bolshevik Party and its revolution.

The fact that the Bolsheviks staked their whole policy on the world revolution of the proletariat is precisely the most striking testimony to the range of their far-sightedness, to their fidelity to principles, and to the daring impetus of their policy. [...]

Whatever a party can, at a historic hour, provide in the way of courage, drive in action, revolutionary far-sightedness, and logic, Lenin, Trotsky, and their comrades gave in full measure. All the revolutionary honor and the capacity for action that were lacking in the Social-Democracy in the West, were to be found among the Bolsheviks. Their October insurrection not only in fact saved the Russian Revolution, but also saved the honor of international socialism. [...]

In this last period, where we are on the eve of decisive battles in the entire world, the most important question for socialism has been and still is just the burning question of the day: not this or that detail of tactics, but the proletariat’s capacity for action, the masses’ drawing power, the will to take power in socialism generally. In this regard, Lenin and Trotsky, with their friends, were the first who went on ahead of the proletariat with their example, they are so far the only ones who can cry out, with Ulrich von Hutten: “I dared that!”

It is that which is the essential thing and it is what remains of the policy of the Bolsheviks. In this sense they retain the imperishable merit in history of having taken the head of the international proletariat in winning political power and in raising in practice the problem of the attainment of socialism, as well as having mightily advanced the struggle between Capital and Labor in the world. In Russia the problem could only be raised; it could not be settled in Russia. And it is in that sense that the future belongs to “Bolshevism.”

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Last updated on 30 January 2016