‘Capitalist Rule Is Caught In Its Own Trap’

Capitalist rule is caught in its own trap, and cannot ban the spirit that it has invoked.

—Rosa Luxemburg, The Junius Pamphlet (1915)


I don’t often express enthusiasm about the appearance of new left groups, but I have come across a case in which I’m at least willing to withhold judgment. The International Luxemburgist Network was formed in 2008 and maintains a web site and publishes a bulletin called Mass Strike. Its members are serious Luxemburgists, who adhere to both her position on the accumulation of capital and on the national question (see their “Statement of Agreement“). While Luxemburg’s position on these two issues is extremely problematic, I believe revisiting her work on spontaneity and organization to be an effort well worth undertaking today.

For a thoroughgoing critique of Luxemburg’s position on the accumulation question, the Marxists Internet Archive contains two important texts by Raya Dunayevskaya originally published in New International, the theoretical journal of the Workers Party: a 1943 letter criticizing a review by Reva Craine of the Paul Frolich Luxemburg biography and a long 1946 piece titled “Luxemburg’s Theory of Accumulation.” Both pieces appeared under the pseudonym she used at the time, F. Forest.

Dunayevskaya considered her critique of Luxemburg on this issue one of her serious theoretical contributions. She revisited the accumulation question in depth, along with her criticism of Luxemburg on the national question, in her book Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution, first published in 1982.

The Hathi Trust Digital Library includes a number of full-text scans of works by Luxemburg, including the 1951 edition of the English translation of The Accumulation of Capital and a beautiful 1923 English language edition her Letters from Prison, published in Berlin. Also worth looking at is What is Economics?, the first chapter of an unfinished work, Introduction to Political Economy. The Rosa Luxemburg Reader contains an excerpt from Chapter 3 of this work its editors titled, “The Dissolution of Primitive Communism,” but “What is Economics?” (translated and edited by T. Edwards, a name unknown to me ) may well be the only other excerpt in English. It appears to be a production of  the Socialist Workers Party, circa 1954, which is surprising, because at no point did the American Trotskyists distinguish themselves with a great interest in interpretations of Marxian economics.

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