1980s >> 1980 >> no-916-december-1980

Poland 1980! A lesson from the past

Rosa Luxemburg (born in Poland 1871, murdered by German ex-army officers in Berlin 1919), socialist writer and teacher, had this to say on Lenin, Trotsky, democracy and socialism:


The remedy invented by Lenin and Trotsky, the general suppression of Democracy, is worse than the evil it is supposed to cure.

Without General Elections, without unrestricted freedom of Press and Assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out of every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains the active element. Yes! We can go even further! Such conditions must cause a brutalisation of public life.


Lenin is completely mistaken in the methods he employs. Decrees, dictatorial force of the factory overseer, draconian penalties: rule by terror, all these things are but palliatives. The only way to rebirth Is the school of public life itself, the broadest democracy and public opinion. It is rule by Terror which demoralises.

The Proletarian Revolution requires no Terror methods to realise its objectives: it hates and despises violence and murder. It does not require this means of combat because it does not fight against individuals, but against institutions. It is not a desperate attempt of a minority to shape the world by force according to its “ideals”: but the action of great masses of millions of people, who are called upon to fulfil a historic destiny or mission, and to transform historic necessity into reality.


All quotations from “Rosa Luxemburg” by J. P. Nettl.


These quotations from Rosa Luxemburg should be read alongside the SPGB statement, ‘The Class Struggle in Poland – A Socialist Statement’, which also appeared in the December 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard.