On This Day: 3 July 1905: A Letter on the Russian Revolution (with a postscript by Karl Kautsky)

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Rosa Luxemburg, Henriette Roland Holst and Karl Kautsky

On 3 July 1905, Rosa Luxemburg wrote to her friend Henriette Roland Holst, a leading figure in the Dutch Social-Democratic Workers’ Party (SDAP). She described her feelings about the Russian Revolution, which had erupted across the Russian Empire after the Bloody Sunday Massacre of 22 January. Later that year, Luxemburg herself returned to her native Poland and led revolutionaries in Warsaw. Her friend Karl Kautsky, the leading Marxist theorist, added a postscript to Rosa’s letter which echoed her sentiments.

3 July 1905

‘Dear Henriette!

… As for the trip to the beautiful Icarus land of Holland, you have guessed correctly that nothing will come of it. I cannot now leave my post, but I feel splendid in doing this work, because the revolution [in Russia] is developing according to all the rules, and it is a great joy to be able to observe this, understand it, and contribute to it. The “hopes and fears” of which you speak can only be felt by someone who remains merely an observer, like the Voerwarts people, for example, or the Russian liberals. People like us take an active part with good cheer, and the mental work (the analysis of the revolution’s progress) is perhaps an even greater pleasure than the practical involvement. Among the masses in our country a truly voracious appetite has developed for light, for class consciousness, and I count myself lucky that I can contribute at least a small kernel toward appeasing this hunger for enlightenment. Only it’s a pity that all of you are not directly involved and cannot write for the workers in Poland and Russia. Language still confronts the International as an accursed barrier. My ideal would be that all the fresh spirits of every country would now be working with united energies for the Russian revolution and would send a cloudburst of good pamphlets there. Then the cause would quickly come to fruition! And yet you have to waste your precious energies on idiotic parliamentary elections and the like. How awful!

Many heartfelt greetings and kisses,

from your Rosa.

PS. … In Regard to Russia, I am also entirely of Rosa’s opinion. Things are going forward magnificently, and I feel thoroughly refreshed by that. The Bernstein business made me old and tired before my time. The Russian revolution has made me ten years younger. I have never worked so lightly and easily as now. Vive la Revolution! Best greetings to you and Uncle Rick from us both.

Yours, K. Kautsky’

Letter from Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Kautsky to Henriette Roland Holst (3 July 1905) Laschitza & Hudis (eds.), The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg (London & New York: Verso, 2011), 185- 187

About rosaluxemburgblog

I was awarded a PhD in History by Swansea University for a thesis on Rosa Luxemburg (2016). I am currently co-editing the fourth volume of 'The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg' and am a member of the Advisory Board of the International Rosa Luxemburg Society.
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