‘Rosa Luxemburg: The Biography’ by J. P. Nettl

Published by Verso in 2019.

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As an advocate of social democracy and individual responsibility, Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) remains the most eminent representative of the revolutionary socialist tradition. She was a radical activist who was willing to go to prison for her beliefs, including her protest of the First World War. This volume provides a representative sampling of Luxemburg’s essential writings, many of which have been rarely anthologized. Her examination of capitalist “globalization” in her era, the destructive dynamics of nationalism, and other topics are joined with hard-hitting political analyses, discussions of labor movement strategy, intimate prison letters, and passionate revolutionary appeals. Among the selections are “Rebuilding the International,” “What Are the Leaders Doing?” and excerpts from “The Accumulation of Capital—An Anti-Critique.”

Luxemburg’s powerful impact on the twentieth century is documented in the accompanying essays, which draw readers into the “discussions” that leading intellectuals and activists have had with this vibrant thinker. Included are essays by Luise Kautsky, Lelio Basso, Raya Dunayevskaya, Paul Le Blanc, Andrew Nye, and Claire Cohen. These writers engage Luxemburg’s life and work in ways that enrich our understanding of her ideas and advance our thinking on issues that concerned her. This volume will benefit readers with its rich and continuing collective evaluation of this passionate revolutionary’s life and thought.


J. P. Nettl (1926–1968) was a historian best known for his two-volume biography of Rosa Luxemburg, which The New York Times described as a classic work that did full justice to her political activity, context, theoretical contributions, and personality.

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