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Rosa Luxemburg: Interview with Luxemburg Scholar and Editor, Peter Hudis

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Message Dr. Lenore Daniels

At the helm of the US Empire today is Barack Obama, who, in speaking for Empire, for imperialism, speaks over the heads of other "sovereign" governments to the corporate rulers. The most recent example of this was in his speech in South Africa. As Commander and Chief for the business interests of the US Empire, Obama is no longer obliged to maintain the formality of speaking to the government of South Africa or to its people. Surrounded by government officials in South Africa for good theater, a chorus of nodding heads, he speaks to his constituents, the corporate class, just as Bush II once admitted he did. The US Empire will set aside money for new development in South Africa--and the "sovereign" government of South Africa will accept the "humanitarian" invasion of corporate capitalists from the U.S.--or it will become vulnerable to another form of invasion organized with international isolation, embargoes, and the imputation of "evil doing" dictators.

More people will become cannon fodder, and others highly-paid servants of the U.S. Empire.

Obama's fears are not those of the disfranchised, the unemployed, the poorly-paid working class, the elderly, or the mothers of starving children, because these are not the concerns of a flourishing imperialist state. Such a state, which speedily and stealthily establishes its global apparatus for the containment of revolt, flourishes in the proliferation of chaos! It is all good for the business of Empire.

Rosa Luxemburg embraced Mother Earth and the life she produced. She was a Jew, a woman, and one of the first women in Europe to receive her doctorate, yet she did not stand for her specific people or tribe, or only for women. Nor was she interested in conversing at conferences and appearing in journals as a representative of the "educated" class. Instead, Luxemburg dedicated her life's work to those she identified with--the poor, the working class, the dispossessed--all those swept aside still today by those who work on behalf of the survival of capitalism.

For that and more, Rosa Luxemburg deserves our attention today.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak by phone with Professor Peter Hudis, co-editor with Kevin B. Anderson of The Rosa Luxemburg Reader (2004), and co-editor, along with Georg Adler and Annelies Laschitza, of The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg (2011). Hudis and his colleagues plan to publish 14 volumes starting this fall that will include more of Luxemburg's works and correspondence not available in English.

I asked Professor Hudis to elaborate on the significance of Rosa Luxemburg's ideas and thoughts for her own time and for today's struggles to bring about an end to mass destruction and suffering.

Hudis: Rosa Luxemburg was one of the "greatest thinkers and researchers, who thought deeply about what makes people rebel."

In her time, she understood that "mass revolts don't come out of the blue but peculate over time. People always revolt against occupational grievances, against an elitist personality cult." In the case of the Arab Spring, "it would seem unexpected," but a Luxemburg would argue to the contrary. For her it would be more important to "see what kind of determination emerges from these uprisings."

Rosa Luxemburg was a radical thinker and, as such, she "understood grassroots" revolts. Consequently, she was "not afraid to critique her close friends, Lenin and Trotsky"--in other words, the self-anointed leadership of resistance.

Luxemburg recognized that the "best support she could offer to grassroots uprisings was her critiques" of the socialists and their leadership. As a result, "she is the most important woman socialist theorist in the last hundred years"--particularly for what she had to say during her era, an era when women were held in "low esteem" and "she had to fight to be heard."

It is interesting, Hudis notes, that since the publication of The Rosa Luxemburg Letters, which received "a lot of attention even from the mainstream press," people were paying attention to someone who "traced capitalism's drive toward imperialism and expansion"--and "she did so as a woman"!

The interest in the "recovery" of this woman thinker and anti-capitalist thinker is a "legacy" of resistance we can no longer forget or ignore.

As Hudis reminds us, when Rosa Luxemburg studied capitalism, "she did not do so as a socialist does it, focusing on structure and development." Her study of this economic system was "akin" to Marx's study of capitalism. That is, Luxemburg was "interested in what leads to the dissolution of society. What are the internal dynamics that cause a breakdown from the inside?"

In his paper entitled "The Unknown Rosa Luxemburg: Her Contributions to Anthropology, Ethnology, and Economic History" (June 7, 2013), Hudis elaborates:

Luxemburg's emphasis on dissolution also explains why she was so determined to develop a Marxist theory of imperialism....

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Activist, writer, American Modern Literature, Cultural Theory, PhD.

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