“Luxemburg is, in my view, the best place to start in further reading if you want to understand the problems of the SWP and think about how a better left could organise. Start with her relatively short 1904 work, Organisational Questions, then from there – and especially if you think 1917 invalidated her earlier criticisms – read The Russian Revolution, written in 1918 and posing some hard questions about the Bolsheviks’ theory and practice. I’ll elaborate some more thoughts on Lenin’s legacy in a future essay.”
How the hell did Tom Walker get to be a Socialist Worker journalist? Not only does he rubbish Julian Assange for suggesting his accusers may be part of a CIA honey trap (a perfectly legitimate proposition), endorses Rosa Luxemburg’s shambolic proposals on organisation in 1904, and her centrist pamphlet on The Russian Revolution that she never published on the advice of Paul Levi who then had it published after he fell out with the KPD several years after her death? Trotsky at the time and Chris Harman in The Lost Revolution dealt with this tragic end to one of the greatest of the political leaders of the German revolutionaries: http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1924/ffyci-2/07.htm
Luxemburg’s criticisms of the Revolution were dealt with comprehensively in a chapter of Giorgi Lukacs’ History and Class Consciousness: http://www.marxists.org/archive/lukacs/works/history/ch07.htm.
Luxemburg’s criticism of Lenin’s democratic centralism have been dealt with exhaustively by (amongst others) Lenin, Trotsky, Gramsci, Lukacs, Harman, Molyneux and even Rosa Luxemburg herself after the German Revolution got her released from jail.
Luxemburg’s writings have to be studied in as much depth as time allows. Even in her mistakes she always taught socialists a lesson. Lenin and Trotsky appreciated having her for a fierce critic in that she helped them sharpen their own counter-arguments, in precisely the same way that Einstein and Bohr sharpened each other to the benefit of both and the rest of the scientific community.
However, there is nothing in Luxemburg’s critique of the Russian Revolution that was not dealt with much better by others. What she did write was based on inadequate information, which is understandable given the fact that she wrote it in jail. She also opposed a soviet republic in that pamphlet which is a centrist position she abandoned on her release from jail, denouncing Kautsky’s centrist USPD as being tools of the bourgeoisie for calling for workers councils to share power with a constitutent assembly.
Luxemburg was murdered by paramilitary forces who marched under the banner of the swatstika. These thugs were brought together by the social democratic leaders who Rosa Luxemburg never appreciated had to be taken on by Lenin’s democratic centralist methods of organisation, not after the revolution has broken out by years in advance, decades if possible.
Luxemburg’s belated split from the centrist faction of Karl Kautsky lead to her communist partisans being swamped when the revolution broke out. She was the leader of a tiny, ill-disciplined group whose youngest activists were prone to infantile ultra-leftism on the trade unions, boycotting parliament, premature insurrectionism, united fronts and pretty much everything else due to their having had zero experience in collective, disciplined intervention in the class struggle.
Luxemburg moved towards a democratic centralist tendency (a party) as fast as she could, but she started the process far too late. Rosa Luxemburg paid for this error with her life, as did Karl Liebnecht, as did the cream of German revolution, drowned in blood by the social democratic leaders determined to save German capitalism from the socialist revolution. And these are the people Tom Walker seems to think should never have been fought by democratic centralist methods of organisation?
The SWP has to recommend all its members read all Luxemburg’s works available in English if that’s all they can read. The SWP should do this just as it should recommend a serious study of all the writings of Gramsci and Trotsky, notwithstanding their making their own mistakes at various points in time.
But the SWP central leadership has to offer some guidance to its members on how to read Luxemburg and co. Tom Walker’s ideas on how Rosa Luxemburg should be read makes me wonder what he was doing in the SWP. Exactly how many others lurk in the party’s ranks who are as unfit for membership? These people have to be educated out of their anti-Leninist perspectives or they have to be dealt with by organisational means: expulsion. Failure to deal with this problem has clearly been an accident waiting to happen and we are all witnessing the fruits of this negligence today.