Ger­man left re­calls mur­der of ‘Red Rosa’

Business Day - - INTERNATIONAL - Agency Staff Ber­lin /AFP

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.

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