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Rosa Luxemburg: War and the Working Class (January 1916)

In late 1914, Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) and other radical socialists broke with the Social Democrats over the war, which she characterized as an imperialist war among the capitalist powers. She called for the world’s working classes to unite in revolution against the nationalistic bourgeoisie.

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Berlin, January 1, 1916

[ . . . ] 12. In view of the betrayal of the aims and interests of the working class by the official representatives of socialist parties in the belligerent countries, in view of their forsaking the principles of the proletarian International for the principles of bourgeois imperialism, it is a vital necessity for socialism to create a new workers' International, which will assume the leadership and consolidation of the revolutionary class struggle against imperialism in all countries.

In order to fulfill its historic task, this new International must rest upon the following principles:

1. The struggle against the ruling classes within the bourgeois states and the international solidarity of the proletariat of all countries are the working class’ two inseparable maxims in its historic struggle for liberation. There can be no socialism divorced from international proletarian solidarity, and there can be no socialism divorced from class struggle. The socialist proletariat cannot dispense with class struggle and international solidarity, either in war or peace, without destroying itself.

2. In peace as in war, the class action of the proletariat in all countries must be directed at the principal goal of combating imperialism and preventing wars. Parliamentary action, trade union action, like all activities of the labor movement, must be subordinated to mobilizing the proletariat in each country as aggressively as possible against the national bourgeoisie, to emphasizing at every step the antagonism between the two classes, and, at the same time, to highlighting and affirming the international solidarity of the proletariat in all countries.

3. The core of the proletariat’s organization as a class lies in the International. In peacetime, the International decides the tactics to be employed by the national sections in questions of militarism, colonial policy, trade policy, [and] May Day celebrations, as well as in all tactics to be employed in wartime.

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