Rosa Luxemburg (5 March 1871-5 January 1919) was an influential Polish Jewish Socialist and Marxist theorist. After the Social Democratic Party of Germany supported World War I, she founded the Spartacist League and later She regarded the Spartacist uprising of January 1919 in Berlin as a mistake, but supported it after it had begun. The uprising was crushed by pro-monarchist remnants of the army. Luxemburg has a symbolic status among Communists and Democratic Socialists. She thought that change could only come from a Revolution, and inspired Luxemburgism.
Luxemburg was born to a Jewish family in Zamość near Lublin in Russian-controlled Congress Poland. She was the fifth child of timber trader Eliasz Luxemburg III and Line Löwenstein. After being bedridden with a hip ailment at the age of five, she was left with a permanent limp.
She thought that only revolutions in Austria, Russia, and Germany could lead to an independent Poland. Luxemburg's rhetorical skill made her a leading spokeswoman in denouncing the SPD's parliamentary course. She wanted a general strike to rouse the workers to solidarity and prevent the coming war; the SPD leaders refused.
During World War I
In August 1914 Luxemburg, along with Karl Liebknecht, Clara Zetkin, and Franz Mehring, founded the Die Internationale group; it became the Spartacist League in January 1916. The Spartacist League vehemently rejected the SPD's support for the war, trying to lead Germany's proletariat to an anti-war general strike. As a result, in June 1916 Luxemburg was imprisoned for two and a half years, as was Karl Liebknecht. The USPD and most of the SPD members supported the councils, while the SPD leaders feared, they could found a Räterepublik ("Council Republic"), in emulation of the system of Soviets of the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917.
Luxemburg was freed from prison in Breslau on November 8. Luxemburg reorganised the Spartacus League and founded the Red Flag newspaper, demanding amnesty for all political prisoners and abolition of capital punishment. She supported the KPD's participation in the national constitutional assembly that founded the Weimar Republic; but she was out-voted. In January, a second revolutionary wave swept Berlin. Unlike Liebknecht Luxemburg rejected this violent attempt to seize power. But the Red Flag encouraged the rebels to occupy the editorial offices of the liberal press.
In response to the uprising, Social Democratic leader Friedrich Ebert ordered the nationalist, right-wing Freikorps to destroy the left-wing revolution.
Luxemburg and Liebknecht were captured in Berlin on January 15, 1919 by the Freikorps Garde-Kavallerie-Schützendivision. Its commander, Captain Waldemar Pabst, along with Horst von Pflugk-Hartung questioned them and then gave the order to kill them. Luxemburg was rifle-butted, then shot in the head, her body flung into Berlin's Landwehr Canal. In the Tiergarten park Liebknecht was shot and his body, without a name, brought to a morgue. Likewise, hundreds of KPD members were summarily killed, and the Workers' and Soldiers' councils disbanded; the German revolution was ended. More than four months later, on June 1, Luxemburg's corpse was found.