Rosa Luxembourg’s pamphlet Sozial-Reform oder Revolution?
The Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House has recently acquired a rare pamphlet by the Polish Marxist Rosa Luxembourg for its research collection. This particular copy once belonged to the Australian socialist activist Guido Baracchi, and thus has a place in the intellectual history of the left in Australia.
The pamphlet is Luxembourg’s Sozial-Reform oder Revolution?, originally published in 1899. It brought together a series of articles written in the course of a dispute with Eduard Bernstein over the future course of the German Social-Democratic Party, regarded by some theorists such as Max Weber and Robert Michels as the first modern political party.
Luxembourg’s biographer, J. P. Nettl, described it as ‘both highly organized and severely democratic at the same time.’ Bernstein had questioned Marx’s analysis of the future course of capitalism and had proposed that the SDP rethink itself as a democratic Socialist party of reform: Luxembourg’s attack on his revisionism and her exploration of the idea of class consciousness would have long-lasting effects on Marxist thinking. This particular edition was published in Leipzig in 1919, the year of her murder in Berlin by the proto-Nazi Freikorps. By then she had parted with the SDP which voted for war in 1914 and went on to become the mainstream centre-left party in Germany, surviving its ban under Hitler.
Guido Baracchi, whose ownership stamp is on the title page, was a foundation member of the Communist Party of Australia in 1920, and soon afterwards joined the communist parties of both Great Britain and Germany during a brief residence in Europe. After periods of being both in and out of favour with the CPA, which he proposed should dissolve itself in 1925, he was expelled for the last time in 1940 for having Trotskyist sympathies. He later joined the ALP and was active in the campaign against Australian intervention in the Vietnam War. His biographer in the Australian Dictionary of Biography notes that ‘he was one of very few serious Australian students of the vast literature of Marxism at that time.’
Biography of Guido Baracchi at the Australian Dictionary of Biography website.