European Journal of Political Theory 10 (2):202-224 (2011)

This article explores the conceptual commitments underlying Luxemburg’s repudiation of the discourse of disappointment which had overtaken the European socialist movement during the First World War. My analysis brushes against the grain of the traditional interpretation of Luxemburg’s admonitions ‘to be cheerful despite everything and anything’ as arising from her allegiance to a Marxist philosophy of history which decrees that socialism must inevitably prevail and so refuses to give way to disappointment or despair. The philosophy of history which Luxemburg absorbed from Marx, notably through the Eighteenth Brumaire, prophesies the ultimate victory of socialism but ordains that the actual events and experiences through which this victory is prepared will consist in catastrophes rather than conquests. In Luxemburg, I suggest, we can see more clearly how the experience of failure could make the realization of socialism more rather than less certain, and in terms that refer more directly to the inner situation of the socialist activist than the abstract assurances on which Marx relied: failure occasions the opportunity for deeper learning but, more importantly, it is in the experience of failure that the commitment on which the realization of socialism depends is tested and, in Luxemburg’s hands at least, forged
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DOI 10.1177/1474885110395478
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The Communist Manifesto.Karl Marx - unknown - Yale University Press.

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