Monday, February 21, 2005
Rosa Luxemburg - The Mass Strike
It is in this context, as well as the centenary of the 1905 Russian Revolution that her little book The Mass Strike has been reissued by Bookmarks. The text is available online, though why bother hurting your eyes like that when it only costs four quid.
The book takes the amazing events of the Russian Revolution of 1905 as a case study. Millions of men and women, living under an almost feudal dictatorship and facing massive repression went on strike, protested and demonstrated for an improvement to their conditions. In particular the 8 hour day, instead of the 12 or 13 hours normally worked in the sweatshops and factories of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Warsaw.
But Luxemburg doesn't simply report on the events - even though she smuggled herself into Poland (then part of the Russian Empire) to take part. The mass strike in the way it was playing out in Russia was a new feature of revolution. Previously such strikes had been seen by the leaders of the international socialist movement as a defensive mechanism, but now the strikes took on an offensive stance, rapidly winning gains and rights never before seen by ordinary people in backward Russia.
Luxemburg is at her best when describing how the strikes radicalised people and gave confidence to other people, how in a few weeks of action, the strikers had gained more for themselves than German unions had in decades of peaceful activity.
Luxemburg's book has stood the test of time - there have been mass strikes aplenty in the last few years around the world, there will be more in the future. The republication of her book will help arm a new generation with the lessons of the past.
Campbell - A Rebel's Guide to Rosa Luxemburg
Luxemburg - Reform or Revolution
Trotsky - 1905