I was, I am, I shall be!
“The revolution does not develop evenly of its own volition, in a clear field of battle, according to a cunning plan devised by clever “strategists. The revolution’s enemies can also take the initiative, and indeed as a rule they exercise it more frequently than does the revolution… Now, it is one of the fundamental, inner laws of revolution that it never stands still, it never becomes passive or docile at any stage, once the first step has been taken. The best defense is a strong blow. This is the elementary rule of any fight but it is especially true at each and every stage of the revolution […]
What does the entire history of socialism and of all modern revolutions show us? The first spark of class struggle in Europe, the revolt of the silk weavers in Lyon in 1831, ended with a heavy defeat; the Chartist movement in Britain ended in defeat; the uprising of the Parisian proletariat in the June days of 1848 ended with a crushing defeat; and the Paris commune ended with a terrible defeat. The whole road of socialism – so far as revolutionary struggles are concerned – is paved with nothing but thunderous defeats. Yet, at the same time, history marches inexorably, step by step, toward final victory! Where would we be today without those “defeats,” from which we draw historical experience, understanding, power and idealism? Today, as we advance into the final battle of the proletarian class war, we stand on the foundation of those very defeats; and we can do without any of them, because each one contributes to our strength and understanding.
There is but one condition. The question of why each defeat occurred must be answered. Did it occur because the forward-storming combative energy of the masses collided with the barrier of unripe historical conditions, or was it that indecision, vacillation, and internal frailty crippled the revolutionary impulse itself? […]
The leadership failed. But a new leadership can and must be created by the masses and from the masses. The masses are the crucial factor. They are the rock on which the ultimate victory of the revolution will be built. The masses were up to the challenge, and out of this “defeat” they have forged a link in the chain of historic defeats, which is the pride and strength of international socialism. That is why future victories will spring from this “defeat.”
“Order prevails in Berlin!” You foolish lackeys! Your “order” is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will “rise up again, clashing its weapons,” and to your horror it will proclaim with trumpets blazing:
I was, I am, I shall be!”
Excerpts from the last written words of Rosa Luxemburg – the Polish-Jewish Marxist theorist and revolutionary who came to be a leader in the German socialist movement and Spartacist uprising. She, along with Karl Liebknecht, was murdered today 94 years ago by the Freikorps. The full text of her last article, “Order Prevails in Berlin”, is available here.