95 years ago, they killed Rosa Luxemburg. On a cold Wednesday, January 15, 1919, several members of Civil Guard of Wilmersdrof, on the outside of Berlin, arrested Rosa Luxemburg and her friend Karl Liebknecht. Both of the left's socialist leader, who call themselves "Spartacus", known to be involved in a rebellion against the government. On that night they were taken to Moabit prison. On the way, the car changes direction: to the Tiergarten, the park which was full of trees in the city center. Among the bushes, Liebknecht was shot dead.
"Dark moments", Hannah Arendt wrote about that time. Rosa lived, fought, lost, in the 20th century which was filled with chaos, starvation, mass murder, and hatred for injustice that made people angry with hoarseness.
But, following the introduction of Arendt in Men in Dark Times, at such moments to hope was something legitimate - hope in the light. Not of ideas, but of "an uncertain light, flickering, and often weak" that came from those who lived, worked, and brought the light of a candle though.
Rosa was like a candle buffeted by the wind. Arendt asked why this woman -- a ratherish marginal figure whose influence as not as big as the other Marxism warriors (eg Plekhanov, Lenin, Trotsky ...), then, after her death -- was important to be heard?
The answer is because Rosa Luxemburg is not so dead. "Freedom is the freedom for those who think differently", it was her famous phrase from 1920, when she criticized Lenin Revolution that silencing a voice of independence and democracy. "Freedom only for the government supporters, only for of a party members is not a freedom." More than half a century later, in 1988, thousands of East German youth revived Rosa's words to challenge the power of Socialist Party. And the Berlin Wall fell.
1988 was the year when Rosa Luxemburg was right and Lenin was wrong and Marxist-Leninist party power everywhere fell. But it needs to be added here: many decades ago, it was not easy to say Lenin was completely wrong in the October 1917 Revolution, especially when the person was in the days that shook the world with all its conflicts and threats. Especially if it was recognized that a revolution required more strength, and more power contained an inevitable violence. "Revolution is not a dinner party", Mao Zhedong said in China a few years later.
Finally, with all the criticism of the October Revolution which wanted to enforce the communism, Rosa did not oppose Lenin and what he had done. "Undoubtedly," she wrote, "Lenin and Trosky has taken a decisive step on the "road full of thorns", through the "terrible indecision and hard inner conflict".
The relationship between them was indeed up and down. Lenin visiting Rosa in 1911, and they were matched. "Lenin is fun to talk to," Rosa said, "He's smart and educated", and he liked Mimi, her beloved cat.
But there were times when their relationship became worse. Rosa's great work , Die Akkumulation des Kapitals published in 1913. In it she actually wanted to show the error of the Marxists middle ground who no longer convinced that capitalism would rot and would be a revolution. For Rosa, capitalism was definitely a dead end. Capital was always expansive, would need a more extensive area which had not been initiated by capital mechanism, until all would be swallowed and a crisis would occur.
But the book also contains an open criticism to Marx. "Marx," according to Luxemburg, "Does not see any limits of capital accumulation."
Lenin read the book and he was angry. "Rosa has been distorted Marx," he said. And when inside the book was described the destructive impact of capitalism expanding into Latin America, Lenin wrote his strong words in the margin, "Its description of nigger torture in South America is noisy, colorful and meaningless. And especially, this is all non-Marxist". But it does not mean that Lenin did not appreciate her. For him, this woman was an eagle that could fly lower than a hen, but she was unchallenged by anything when flying high.
But Lenin died and Stalin then in power. Stalin rid this woman ideas, she who has a sharp criticism but soft feeling, a revolutionary who could fiery on the podium but could easily fascinated to the simple cloud shapes.
But it is valuable in her thought: the empathy for concrete life, not just an assuredness in one concept of the "proletariat". Maybe that's why she could touch us. It can be imagined when they, like us, moved by the her words, "I feel close to the miserable victims in plantations in Putamayo and African Negroes whose bodies serve as the Europeans toy balls. I do not have a special place for my people, the Jews. I feel my home is on the whole earth where there are clouds and birds and human tears".
In other words, solidarity among fellow is not born because of destiny. History makes it. Humans, from the particular experiences, build and woken by something universal. From the different world, the same moment is growing.
So, for Luxemburg, democracy could not be postponed. Democracy was a legitimate part of socialism. Through democracy we wrestle continuously to arrange the conflict and differences, because the differences will always exist, although human need a "universal home" which includes a profusion of terms : clouds, birds, tears.
Without it, there is only dictatorship. Finally dictatorship can distort the best hope of Revolution.
Seventy years after January 15, 1919, throughout the Eastern Europe, Rosa Luxemburg lives again. Good bye Lenin. The candles are flickering.