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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Rosa Luxemburg

b. 1871, Zamość, Poland; d. 1919, Berlin

Marxist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg was instrumental in the founding of the Polish Social Democratic Party (1893), the Spartacist League (1914), and the German Communist Party (1918). Her political and theoretical commitment to socialism was informed by her belief that the mass strike was the critical tool of the proletariat and the most effective means to a socialist revolution. She came to this conclusion during her participation in the 1905 Russian Revolution, and elaborated her ideas in Massenstreik, Partei und Gewerkschaften (The Mass Strike, the Political Party, and the Trade Unions, 1906). From 1907 to 1914, Luxemburg taught at the Social Democratic Party school in Berlin, during which time she produced her major theoretical work, Die Akkumulation des Kapitals (The Accumulation of Capital, 1913). In 1916, when the German Social Democratic Party backed World War I, Luxemburg and likeminded radicals formed the breakaway Spartacist League and organized an antiwar demonstration, for which they were jailed. Luxemburg used her two years in prison to write Die russische Revolution (The Russian Revolution, 1922). Upon her release, she co-founded the German Communist Party and orchestrated the failed Spartacist Uprising of 1919. Shortly after, she was assassinated by soldiers of the reactionary German Freikorps.