Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Rosa Luxemburg (1985)

I finally got round to seeing Margarethe Von Trotta's 1985 film Rosa Luxemburg this week. I had known of the film's existence ever since Paul Foot mentioned it in an article back in 2000. This is what Foot says:

'Margarethe von Trotta’s fabulous film about Rosa Luxemburg opens on New Year’s Eve 1899 with a huge centenary party ball organised by the German Social Democratic Party. The scene throbs with gaiety, ribaldry, and above all hope. All the great leaders of the rising new movement were there to celebrate the dawn of a new era, the start of another hundred years, which everyone assumed would be incomparably better than the century of wars and dictators which was drawing to a close...Two characters dominated that tumultuous celebration: Karl Kautsky, the doyen of German Social Democracy, unbending in his insistence on Marxist politics in the party, and Rosa herself, fresh from a furious argument with Eduard Bernstein...Many guests, including Karl Kautsky, responded to the Marxist language favoured by Rosa Luxemburg, though the more practical politicians among them, again including Karl Kautsky, were secretly impressed and even excited by Bernstein’s parliamentary perspective. In the film the argument hovers lightly, almost frivolously, over the celebrations without spoiling them.'

The film is indeed in my opinion fabulous, particularly if one has a reasonable grasp of some of the argument between reform and revolution going on within the Second International, particularly in Germany, that Foot sketches out. It is exciting to see characters like Kautsky and Clara Zetkin debating and discussing class struggle. But even if the thought of seeing a representation on film of say, August Bebel doesn't really do anything for you (and why should it?) this film should definitely be seen by all revolutionary socialists far and wide simply for its moving and powerful representation of Rosa Luxemburg herself. While at times the film confusingly seems to lose sight of the exact historical context, I thought it used Rosa's letters and speeches to convincingly portray her heroic courage and love of life and the tragedy of her death. However, I would be very interested to hear other people's take on this film.

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