Revolutionary birth and thanatos: Luxemburg and Chávez

A most happy birthday today for Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919), communist militant, feminist, and uncompromising critic of militarism and imperialism!  Author of various works and essays, including The Accumulation of Capital, Luxemburg represented a key figure within the most radical strains of Marxism at the time of the Second International; a trenchant student and critic of European imperialism, she theorized the hegemonic negativity of capitalist rule as stemming from the historical dissolution of indigenous communism (statist and non-statist) as prosecuted by the superior weaponry and brutality of European colonialism throughout most of the world’s regions.  Within her analysis of proletarian movements against the prevailing system, RL emphasized the importance of spontaneity from below, and she looked to the mass-general strike (as seen e.g. in Russia, 1905) as the principal means of abolishing the rule of capital.  She was heavily involved with organizing against the total brutality of World War I, and was imprisoned for this reason for 2.5 years during the course of the war.  Following her release in November 1918, she worked with Karl Liebknecht and the Spartakusbund to provoke a popular revolution in Germany at war’s end, one based on soldiers’ and workers’ councils.  For these efforts, she and Liebknecht were murdered by proto-fascists on the orders of the ruling Social Democrat government in early 1919.

In her own words:

“Die Weltgeschichte ist das Weltgericht!” (“World-history is the world’s tribunal!”)

“Socialism or barbarism!”

“Tomorrow the revolution will… announce with fanfare, to your terror: I was, I am, I shall be!”


Also this day marks the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez.  While less enthusiasm is here expressed for him as compared to the historical memory of RL, his life and rule cannot be separated from the socialist tradition.  Many legitimate grounds exist on which to criticize him, but his practical contributions to struggle against capital and empire in the twenty-first century should not be overlooked or readily dismissed.

RIP rafiq

The Arabic reads “Farewell, comrade.”


3 Responses to “Revolutionary birth and thanatos: Luxemburg and Chávez”

  1. Michael Harris Says:

    The recent death (murder!) of a real comrade:

    • intlibecosoc Says:

      Clearly Chávez’s rule had massive issues on several grounds, I do not doubt that. RL for me is incomparably more revolutionary than Chávez; I vaguely noted reservations with him in the text of the post. I would concur in placing extractivism at the top of the list of critiques of him.

    • intlibecosoc Says:

      PS To clarify, the modifier “revolutionary” in the title describes the birth of Rosa Luxemburg in my mind; it is not meant to describe Chávez’s death.

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