Luxemburg’s Dilemmas: Lessons in Marxism as Political Praxis
This article investigates the tensions in the writings of Rosa Luxemburg as juxtaposed to her historical contemporaries in light of the debate on reformist Marxism. Primarily, her exchanges with Eduard Bernstein on the question of social revolution and with Vladimir Lenin on the question of nationality are explored. In relating these debates to present day examples of social and protest movements, as well as those for national independence, the article attempts to tease out guidance for Marxist political praxis in the current day. By close reading of the Bernstein-Luxemburg debate, it can be seen that the “reform or revolution” debate is often posited in terms which are inconsistent with those the authors originally meant. The article posits that there is no inherent tension or dichotomous relationship between reforms and revolutionary practice as consistent with the way the terms are normally used today. At the same time, it raises questions about what the practical limits of Marxism as both an analytic framework and a guide to political action are, particularly on the question of nationalism.