Rosa Luxemburg, a German Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist and revolutionary socialist, was born on March 5, 1871, in Zamo in Russian Poland. She came from a Polish-Jewish, lower middle class family, her father was a timber merchant. Rosa was the youngest of five children. She suffered from a hip ailment at the age of 5, which left her with a lifelong limp. He family shifted to Warsaw, where she attended the Warsaw’s Second Gymnasium for Girls from 1880-1887. During high school, Rosa became actively involved in revolutionary and underground activities, her rebellious attitude led to her being denied the topper’s gold medal upon her graduation, despite being one of the most gifted and analytical students. In 1889, Rosa moved to Zurich, where she attended the Zurich University to study history, economy, politics and philosophy. In 1893, along with Leo Jogiches and Julian Marchle, Rosa founded the newspaper, ‘Sprawa Robotnica’ (the Worker’s Cause). In 1897, she submitted her doctoral dissertation ‘The Industrial Development of Poland’, and in 1898, she received her Doctor of Law degree.
She began her political career by joining the left wing Proletariat Party in Poland. She collaborated with Leo Jogiches, together they founded the Social Democratic Party, and after joining hands with Lithuania’s Social democratic organization, it took the name of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania. In 1904, she published ‘Organizational Questions of the Russian Social Democracy’, which questioned Lenin’s work and theories, and argued that a communist dictatorship can only prosper in system where power is centralized with the Party Central Committee. Rosa was arrested along with Jogiches after the failure of the Russian Revolution in 1905. Upon her release, she put forward a resolution at the Second International (Socialist) Congress in Stuttgart, which implored all European worker’s parties to join hands in preventing the war.
Rosa Luxemburg began teaching Marxism and economics at the Social Democratic Party’s training centre in Berlin. In 1912, she requested all the European worker’s parties to declare a strike in order to prevent the approaching war, while representing the Social Democratic Party at the European Socialist Congress. However, she was extremely disappointed when the Social Democratic Party and French socialists refused to announce strikes and demonstrations, the World War I began in 1914. Nevertheless, Rosa did not give up the cause and began organizing anti-war demonstrations against military conscription in Frankfurt. This lead to her arrest on grounds of “inciting disobedience against the authorities’ law and order”. Even arrests failed to dissuade Rosa from protesting against the war, and in August 1914, she along with Karl Liebknecht, Clara Zetkin and Franz Mehring, founded the ‘Die Internationale’, which was later named as the ‘Spartacus League’. The Spartacus League displayed strong opposition towards the war, it began releasing illegal anti-war pamphlets under the pseudonym ‘Spartacus’ and calling for anti-war strike. These radical measures led to the arrests of Luxemburg and Liebknecht in 1916.
Upon her release in 1918, Rosa and Liebknecht began reviving the Spartacus League and co-founded the ‘Red Flag’ newspaper that implored pardon and the revoking of capital punishment for all political prisoners. She was also a collaborator in the establishment of the German Communist Party and its journal, the ‘Rote Fahne’. In 1919, Germany’s government saw a change after the armistice, as Chancellor Friedrich Ebert took over with a mission to wipe out left-wing revolutionists. Meanwhile, Rosa and Karl began staging massive demonstrations, calling for strikes and urging a revolution against Ebert’s government. In January 1919, under Luxemburg and Liebknecht’s engineering, fierce riots broke out and a massive wave of violence took over Berlin. The troops were deployed and the revolt was finished in a few days by exerting extreme brutality. On January 15, 1919, Rosa and Karl Liebknecht were arrested and murdered by the troops.
Rosa Luxemburg was buried next to her comrade Karl Liebknecht at the Friedrichsfelde Central Cemetery in Berlin.