Kate Evans
+ Your AuthorsArchive @cartoonkate Cartoonist, artist, author, activist, mother. #RedRosa #Threads #TheFoodofLove #BumpBirthBook and the BRAND NEW KIDS BOOK #DontCallMePrincess! Jan. 15, 2019 8 min read

On the centenary of #RosaLuxemburg's death – actually, that's "Doktor Rosa Luxemburg" to you because she bloody earned that doctorate in economics – let us remember her life. THREAD 1/of shedloads...

Little Rosa. Here she is at about five years old. If you look carefully at the sole of the boot on the right, you can see that it's 3 inches thick. Her congenital hip dysplasia was a serious disability that affected her throughout her life.

Bat Mitzvah photo, age 12 or so. And my interpretation of her as a schoolgirl. Luxemburg never let her disability stop her from doing anything. She just ignored the restrictions that should have held her back.

Actually, her disability might have prevented her from riding bicycles. So she just didn't like bicycles. But in other news, having dodgy hips possibly enabled her to avoid being married off as a teenager, in a weird intersection of gender and ability discrimination.

Here is Luxemburg as a schoolgirl worrying her parents with her rude and rebellious poem about the German Kaiser.

And she genuinely did write "I want to burden the conscience of the affluent with all the suffering and all the hidden, bitter tears" when still at school, although it is unlikely that she carved it into a desk with a knife. [I qualified for my Artistic Licence some years ago]

Here is Luxemburg as a young lady. Her hair is up. This was a Thing. Becoming a young lady in 1888 would not have been a comfortable process.

And behold! by 1893 she has chopped off all her hair with nail scissors. This makes her look like a 1980s Berlin squatter girl. Tho I spose in the spirit of historical accuracy, actually, 1980s Berlin squatter girls looked like RL

btw, I love this reinterpretation of that iconic photo that @rosaluxnyc did a couple of years back.  http://www.rosalux-nyc.org/rosa-remix-3/ 

About this time, Luxemburg becomes romantically involved with Leo Jogiches. Yeah, no-one knows how to pronounce this. I go for "Yorgishes". In this photo he looks a bit like James Dean.

It was very much a meeting of minds. "Oh Jo-jo, I love you so much my heart is simply bursting... Would you say that the riot in the Haymarket was primarily about the eight hour day?"

This was before Google. Jogiches's encyclopedic and probably aspergic retention of information about the socialist struggle was very useful. As were the pots of cash from his dad. I really like this pic with the icy blue eyes and the fluffy cheeks.

Ultimately, though, he was a grumpy fucker. This text is taken verbatim from one of Luxemburg's later letters expressing frustration with the relationship. She is sooooooo badass.

So she gets married. To someone else. Her landlady's son, Gustav Lübeck, because he's a German citizen. Look, she can't even be bothered to put a clean frock on for the wedding. There is a foot of mud on the hem of that dress.

I have always assumed that Lübeck was either gay, or extremely vague, because he was quite happy to remain married to someone he never saw again, and when she tried for a divorce years later he was super flaky about doing the paperwork.

This enables her to gain German citizenship. Hmm, I forgot to mention that she was Polish and it's illegal to be a socialist in Tsarist Russian occupied Poland and being tiny, limping, Jewish and female, she wasn't a very incognito socialist agent. She escaped to Switzerland...

...because that's the only country in Europe that lets women graduate from university. And then she moves to Berlin. See? Let refugees move from countries where they will die to countries where they won't. Simples! We all benefit.

Incidentally, I am such a nerd that I have an historical map of horse-drawn omnibus routes of Berlin, and she would actually have taken the number 14 to Schöenenburg (but, dammit, I spelt "Schöenenburg" wrong on the front). Also "pferdeomnibus" is one of my few words of German...

...along with "Ersten Weltkrieg" and "Kaiserreich". Google image search is a wonderful thing. As are the Bundesarchives – official German govt photo archives. I tell you, it's not going to be so easy to source Italian photos for the Gramsci bio.

Dr Luxemburg wants to "affect people like a clap of thunder" when she arrives in Berlin, and she does, touring Silesia to educate Polish speaking mine workers about the socialist cause.

And plunging into excellently-formulated academic discourse keeping the socialist party on a radical course. (Please note my use of sausages. I have to keep shoehorning those visual metaphors in. It's not easy to illustrate abstract Marxist theory.)

Here's August Bebel, the leader of the party, being amused by and exasperated with her. I love this pic.

She is good friends with Karl and Luise Kautsky. Here is a photo of her and Luise, who it seems has frizzy hair – details like this are useful for a graphic novel. Luise was both married to Karl, and simultaneously had an affair with his brother who lived in an adjacent apartment

Rosa is imprisoned for a short stretch for "insulting the monarchy". She writes this letter to Luise.

Here is the photo of Karl with the bean-shaped tie.

THEN!!!! 1905! THERE IS A MOFO REVOLUTION IN RUSSIA!!!!! Dr Luxemburg gets herself a fake passport and jumps on a train to Warsaw which is locked down under martial law.

Jogiches is there already. Tsarist forces gradually regain control and they are arrested, while in bed together. She writes to Luise "I was found in a rather awkward situation, but let's pass over that in silence."

She also researches the praxis of revolutions and formulates theory about the mass strike that remains relevant today #GiletJaunes It's not all sordid sex scenes. There's economics, historical materialism and philosophy too.

This is life-or-death stuff. Dr Luxemburg expects to be executed and she writes a letter home which would have served as her epitaph.

However, when I look at her prison photo, what I think is "She could obvs create that up-do hairstyle without a mirror".

After Luxemburg is bribed out of jail and returns to Berlin, I spend a disproportionate amount of my biography of her documenting her romance with Kostya Zetkin. He is 20. She is 34. He is the son of her good friend Clara Zetkin. I drew him as all my sexiest ex-lovers.

Tho in reality, he was actually a little less dashing. He has a good life story in itself tho.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kostja_Zetkin 

Rosa is smiling – as well she might – and I think that if you look closely, she has two gold teeth on the left of her mouth there. Maybe? A nice piratey detail for when they make the film. I am available to write the screenplay, by the way, if anyone from Hollywood is interested.

Around 1905 advances in camera technology mean we have snapshots, not posed studio photos, and a richer archive of Rosa pics to pore over. This is my absolute fave. She is drawing a picture and she has grubby fingers.

She was a good artist.

And a great political theorist. This is from her 'Introduction to Political Economy', a history book which describes the genocide of indigenous American and African peoples and the spread of imperialism in uncompromising terms.

And a propagandist and public speaker and practical agitator. Here Dr Luxemburg is fomenting unrest around Prussian suffrage reform.

She was respected and reviled in equal measure by her peers, largely for sexist and racist reasons. This text is taken from a conversation between August Bebel – who was meant to be a feminist! – and Victor Adler.

In 1913 she publishes her master work, The Accumulation of Capital, a theoretical expansion on Marx's ideas in Volume 2 of Das Kapital, which proves how capitalism is parasitic upon human society and the environment to expand.

While wearing a very nice blouse.

This is my favourite quote from The Accumulation of Capital. What's yours?

Here is another good Luxemburg quote. The original is "Die Revolution ist grossartig, alles andere ist Quark" which translates as "The revolution is great. All else is soft cheese."

Dr Luxemburg was an uncompromising opponent of the First World War. People have taken that to mean that she was a pacifist. She wasn't. She had no problem with armed uprisings...

...but unlike most of the rest of the German Socialist party she never supported the slaughter of the proletariat for nationalist and imperialist ends.

And so she was imprisoned indefinitely for the duration of the war. And, surprisingly, she wrote some of her most beautiful and uplifting letters from prison.

How did the First World War end? With the German proletariat rising up and seizing the means of production!

And what does a revolution mean to a graphic novelist? Crowd scenes! I bloody hate crowd scenes. Especially with all those hats. Put lots of slogans and red flags in there to take up space.

I also used this nice photo of some soldiers and marines driving what is almost certainly not their car.

Two middle-aged women, Rosa Luxemburg and the much ignored Mathilde Jacob (a woman with the skillz to work a stenography machine) creating revolution.

Dr Luxemburg's vision of revolution was fundamentally democratic. It's untrue to say that she openly quarrelled with Lenin, but she certainly disagreed the totalitarian tendencies of the new Soviet Union.

I am going to leave her here, with the wind in her ears, prepared to risk everything for the cause of defeating capitalism. Let's not think of her murder, by her fellow socialists. Let's think of her life.

.@VersoBooks @karldietzberlin @VigeVageKnjige @rls_history @rosalux_global @rosaluxblog @rosaluxnyc @rosaluxstiftung

#RedRosa, my graphic novel, is available from @VersoBooks, or signed, direct from me at  https://www.cartoonkate.co.uk/rosa/  There are also about 15 foreign editions if you want it in Slovenian, Korean, Turkish or Thai.

You can follow @cartoonkate.


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