The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg
This chapter discusses Geras’s first book, on Rosa Luxemburg. Geras gives a good account of the notion of capitalist collapse implied in the slogan ‘socialism or barbarism?’, but Cowling argues that Geras should have said more about Luxemburg’s economic theory, which underpins this slogan. Geras discusses Luxemburg’s view of the period between the Russian Revolution of 1905 and that of 1917. He claims, which Cowling disputes, that Luxemburg came to agree with Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution. Luxemburg thought that bourgeois democracy was bankrupt, but, argues Geras, it was more robust than she imagined. Cowling argues that neither Geras nor Luxemburg allowed for the benefits that German workers were receiving from the state. Geras gives a good exposition of Luxemburg’s theory of the mass strike, and her idea that the role of the party should be to lead mass strikes in the direction of revolution. Geras then discusses the relationship of means and ends in the course of revolution, justifiably emphasizing Luxemburg’s commitment to preserving democracy and freedom of expression.
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