German left recalls murder of ‘Red Rosa’
Germany’s sharply divided leftwing parties on Sunday commemorated revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg on the 100th anniversary of her murder.
The memory of “Red Rosa” and prominent fellow leftist Karl Liebknecht also murdered in January 1919 brought together more than 10,000 people in the capital, Berlin.
“Luxemburg arouses great interest among a very diverse public,” said Claudia von Gelieu, a political scientist who guides visitors around the scenes of historic moments in Berlin.
Germany’s main left-wing parties the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Left (or Die Linke) can together boast of less than 25% support in the polls after years of crisis. The malaise is shared by their counterparts around Europe and elsewhere in the world, as many working class people are increasingly attracted by nationalist or populist movements.
In Germany, the left has borne the brunt of voter departures from the political mainstream to the far-right Alternative for Germany, especially in the country’s formerly communist eastern states.
“The fact that Rosa Luxemburg was killed so early before Stalinism tainted the communist dream for many in western Europe —“made her an icon whose aura and influence remain intact,” said Free University of Berlin political scientist Stefan Heinz.
Left-wing daily Die Tageszeitung dubbed her a “pop icon” on Saturday.
A journalist and talented public speaker, Luxemburg was born in Lublin, in Russiancontrolled Poland, to a family of liberal Jewish traders. Admired by Lenin, she was a tireless interpreter of Marx who travelled around Germany stirring up crowds.
For his part, Liebknecht was a social democratic member of parliament who went down in history for declaring a “socialist republic” on the day of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s abdication. Two weeks before the pair were murdered they founded the Communist Party of Germany.
The double killing on January 15, 1919 was the apex of a “bloody week” in the uprising of tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors and workers around Germany’s World War 1 defeat in November 1918. Demobilised former soldiers organised in socalled “Freikorps” killed Luxemburg and Liebknecht and hurled their bodies into a Berlin canal.
A shaky SPD government that took power after the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II had turned to the Freikorps and their brutal methods to restore order in the fledgling Weimar Republic. The violent repression and double murder slammed the door on co-operation between the social democrats and the communists, giving the Nazi party an opening for its march towards power in 1933.