What do you think of Luxemburg's critique…

What do you think of Luxemburg's critiques of the Bolsheviks & the Soviet Union? Given that she was neither like outright antagonistic (like Trots, anarchists, liberals, and counterrevolutionaries were) nor an anti-revisionist in the Maoist sense. Are her writings useful today?

Luxemburg was an amazing revolutionary figure. She was staunchly internationalist and one of the few revolutionary figures who opposed the war in Germany and the opportunism of the Second International. That being said, she had some wrong ideas.

Her text “Leninism or Marxism” is a critique of Bolshevism, and it focuses on characterizing the Leninist party of a new type as an “ultra-centralist tendency.” Luxemburg writes that:

The fact is that the Social Democracy is not joined to the organization of the proletariat. It is itself the proletariat. And because of this, Social Democratic centralism is essentially different from Blanquist centralism. It can only be the concentrated will of the individuals and groups representative of the working class. It is, so to speak, the “self-centralism” of the advanced sectors of the proletariat. It is the rule of the majority within its own party.

But this distorts the lines between the proletariat and the advanced sections of the proletariat, and the difference between the revolutionary Party and the broad revolutionary movement. From Lenin, the line is not one of “ultra-centralism” but democratic centralism, where the Party is comprised of serious, professional revolutionaries and is internally practicing centralism and democracy, but is externally, towards the masses of people, practicing the broadest decentralization.

This brings us to a highly important principle of all Party organisation and all Party activity: while the greatest possible centralisation is necessary with regard to the ideological and practical leadership of the movement and the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat, the greatest possible decentralisation is necessary with regard to keeping the Party centre (and therefore the Party as a whole) informed about the movement, and with regard to responsibility to the Party. The leadership of the movement should be entrusted to the smallest possible number of the most homogeneous possible groups of professional revolutionaries with great practical experience. Participation in the movement should extend to the greatest possible number of the most diverse and heterogeneous groups of the most varied sections of the proletariat (and other classes of the people).


Luxemburg also criticizes Bolshevism as “Blanquist” and puts forward purely incorrect statements about Lenin’s conception of the Party (e.g., “the Central Committee [is] the only thinking element of the Party”, and “Lenin is convinced that all the conditions necessary for the formation of a powerful and centralized party already exist in Russia.”). She speaks very little about the actual line struggle within the Social-Democratic movement in Russia (at the time in 1904). She proclaims the Social-Democratic Party is “itself the proletariat” without describing how that comes to be (Lenin’s “What is to be Done?” lays out how the Party deals with spontaneity and consciousness much more effectively.)

Ultimately, her conception of the Party is one that valorizes a “spontaneous” “centralization”, (in her words, “self-centralism”) of the proletariat itself, which completely divorces the project of building a revolutionary Party and movement from its conscious elements versus its spontaneous elements