Revolutionary Philosopher & Icon
After their release, Luxemburg taught in Berlin between 1907 and 1914. In December 1914, she joined with Karl Liebknecht, Leo Jogiches, Paul Levi, Ernest Meyer, Franz Mehring and Clara Zetkin to establish an underground political organization called Spartakusbund (Spartacus League). After its first mass demonstration against the First World War in Berlin in 1916, several leaders, including Luxemburg and Liebknecht were arrested and imprisoned. She remained in prison until November 1918.
In January 1919, the Spartacists voted, against Luxemburg, for revolution—beginning the Spartacist Revolution. The German government brought in the army and the Freikorps paramilitary units to squash the rebellion.
On January 15, 1919, Luxemburg and Liebknecht were arrested, tortured, and murdered. Their bodies were thrown into Berlin’s Landwehrkanal.
Although her worldview stemmed from her experience as a Jew growing up in the Russian Empire, she believed human suffering transcended nations, religions, and race. When urged to act for particular “Jewish” causes, Luxemburg wrote:
“What do you want with this theme of the ‘special suffering of the Jews’? I am just as much concerned with the poor victims on the rubber plantations of Putumayo, the Blacks in Africa with whose corpses the Europeans play catch . . . Oh that ‘sublime stillness of eternity,’ in which so many cries of anguish have faded away unheard, they resound within me so strongly that I have no special place in my heart for the ghetto. I feel at home in the entire world, wherever there are clouds and birds and human tears.”