Pea Grean

Year 12

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Wanderer's Nightsong: A Lesson in Pantheism

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend told me he was “going on a mission to read Spinoza!” I scoffed, “Spinoza? Why would you even bother?” Little did I know, a of couple weeks later, I myself would be slowly becoming a pantheist, mourning the death of God and nature. In 1780, Goethe, a pantheist and Spinoza mega-fan wrote Wanderer’s Night-song 2, it was through this poem and many other poems that the poets of the romantics paid homage to divinity they found in nature. The last line of the poem “Before long, you too shall rest” displays Goethe’s belief in the need for harmony with nature to be at rest and in harmony with the world. In this analysis we can examine pantheism and discuss romantic and enlightenment philosophies of god and the divinity to be found within nature. Along with this, how a connection with nature can equate to a connection with God and can therefore create a force of moral good within people.

However, in my life, I have experienced little to no connection with nature in this 21st century, does this make me morally corrupt? Unholy? Not capable of good? “God is dead, and we have killed him”. Nietzsche’s famous words here can be applied to this experience. Despite Nietzsche referring to the enlightenment when he made his bold claim, I believe one could also apply it to the Industrial Revolution and the rapid growth of capitalism throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The industrial Revolution and growth of capitalism have led to rampant destruction of nature in the pursuit of profit and everlasting efficiency. Even agriculture, an industry that works specifically on the land and with the environment has become alienated from nature and drained of that raw human connection with nature. And guess how this happened. You guessed it, the aggressive pursuit of big bux. With the advent of the Technological Age, the agricultural industry has been radically transformed since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the traditional ways of farming and keeping land that kept many women and men in touch with nature have been traded in for profit, privatisation and efficiency. For example, the constant development of unnatural products and chemicals to maximise profit and exploit farmers such as pesticides and GMO seeds manufactured and sold by oligopolist corporations like Monsanto and DOW Chemicals. In fact, this Promethean nightmare of GM organisms harkens back to Romantic thought, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in particular. The natural order is being corrupted by humanity’s growth and development. Again, in Shelley’s Frankenstein she was referring to the scientific advancements of the Enlightenment and their consequences, but as with Nietzsche, it is just as easily applied the catastrophic consequences of the Industrial Revolution. Genetic modification technologies, however, have not been developed out of curiosity as in Victor Frankenstein’s case, but out of the drive for profit and efficiency. This drains any semblance divine, Romantic, and humanist values out of the development of this technology and its consequences. When Victor Frankenstein created his monster, he played God. Human plays God every day, it can be argued that we (or at least the bourgeois puppet masters) have taken on the role of God in the absence of the pure divinity that was once found in nature. This not only cements Nietzsche’s argument, but takes it a step further to say that not only have we killed God, but we have co-opted his role as the almighty, now we are in charge of ourselves. However, this is not true, free will does not exist. It must be argued that we have not taken the role of God, but the bourgeois class, the one percent, the corporate CEOs, the puppet masters of the proletariat. This act of murder and identity theft is unforgiveable and damns all of humanity to an eternity of insecurity, faithlessness, and uncertainty. How can one be sure of life after death, when God himself is dead, when the only God we know is down here with us making our lives miserable. This is why it is important to read Camus and avoid falling into the dark abyss of nihilism.

Please excuse me sounding an awful lot like Ted Kaczynski , but the Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been catastrophic for nature and man’s connection with it. For pantheists especially, who see divinity in nature it is clear how to relate Nietzsche’s famous quote to the Industrial Revolution. Through humanity’s actions, we have (in Western society anyway) destroyed any semblance of a realistic connection with nature, and therefore we have killed god in a most vicious, violent and unholy way. However, it might be difficult for a religious person of the bourgeois class to acknowledge and understand this astute observation. This would be because they’re so engulfed in their own world view (one that is horrifically greedy and malicious) that they use God and religion as a tool for their good optics. Not only that, they, have also co-opted the role of God, this shows a complete lack of faith and connection with nature. If these people actually believed in the teachings of God, they wouldn’t be exploiting the Global South.

One could argue against pantheism by pointing out all the religious, working class people in large cities who likely have no connection to nature. However, are these people of faith ever going to be at peace, or have the ability to rest? Are they capable of achieving inner peace and harmony when the system is actively working against them? How is someone meant to achieve these things when working 50 hours a week at three thankless jobs to come home to two children who consistently cost more and more money. Work will not set you free, nothing can adequately substitute the connection to nature that was so well values by the romantics. Surviving under capitalism is not life, but slavery , an eternity indentured to those members of the one percent playing God, pulling our puppet strings in every corner of our lives. We are not free; we cannot be at peace or harmony with nature and God. Humanity has destroyed nature and any chance of reconciling the once glorious relationship we had with its divinity (climate change says “hi ”). It is evident that God is Dead, and we have killed him.

However, to end this thought here is nihilistic and useless, we must aim to find reason and meaning in a life without divinity. We can find certainty in the uncertain. This follows along the lines of Camus’ philosophy of absurdism, where one must acknowledge the existence of the absurd and rebel against that by embracing it and enjoying the complete and utter meaningless of life, “it will be lived all the better if it has no meaning” . In embracing the fact that we know nothing of life after death, in accepting that God (or at least his influence) has died, we can find comfort and joy in life. Through understanding the certainty that nothing is certain and coming to terms with that idea, human can imagine himself as happy and placebo himself into being glad. Although, some people struggle with coming to terms with the absurdity of life and seek salvation from a faithless life instead in existentialist theories pioneered by philosophers such as Jean Paul Sartre and Simon de Beauvoir (my personal favourite). “…we find in humanity itself that absolute end that we were first looking for in heaven” , Simon de Beauvoir argues that human must find his own meaning in life, rather than put bad faith into God as he “would be powerless to guide human transcendence” for a whole host of reasons. However, none of the copious reasons de Beauvoir supports her glorious argument with are that “God is dead, and we have killed him”, however, despite this it is an excellent philosophy to approach the specifically pantheist, Spinozist issue of the death of God with.

In conclusion, Man’s connection with nature is lost to the Industrial Revolution. God is dead. Man has killed him. Man has stolen his identity. Don’t be a doomer about it though.

The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg: Assessing the Different Historiographical Approaches to the Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg.

Rosa Luxemburg was a prominent figure in the history of Germany. She was an anti-war Marxist who believed in the strength of the proletariat. In particular, during WWI and the interwar period, she was at the forefront of a revolutionary movement that had the potential to alter the course of history. Rosa Luxemburg’s name, therefore, carries substantial significance in European revolutionary history which has led to a range of historiographical approaches to her legacy. Public figures and historians have rewritten and manipulated her legacy to support their specific contexts or varying political platforms. Her ‘legacy’ once rested on her achievements and in more contemporary readings of her legacy, Marxist feminists have drawn from her personality and lifestyle. In both cases, Rosa Luxemburg and her work have been manipulated and reduced to serve the purposes of particular political agendas. After Luxemburg’s death, Stalin created the narrative of “Luxemburgism” which “enrolled Luxemburg into the camp of centrism” (1), skewing the way Luxemburg’s work would be treated and interpreted for decades. Bertram Wolfe, guided by, the New Left tendencies of the 1960s and US anti-communist philosophy, manipulated Stalin’s narrative of Luxemburg in an attempt to attack Stalin and his construction of ‘Leninism’. Contemporary interpretations of Luxemburg’s legacy, however, come largely from a Marxist feminist perspective and involve a strong emphasis on Luxemburg’s empathetic and caring nature, demonstrated in a recent release of all her private letters. Dana Mills’ Critical Lives biography and Kate Evans’ graphic biography, Red Rosa, encapsulate the current attitude held by many historians toward Rosa Luxemburg as an intelligent, strong woman influenced by her emotions. This new school of thought while somewhat empowering from a feminist perspective can also be viewed as damaging and problematic from a feminist perspective upon further examination. There are many interpretations of Rosa Luxemburg’s legacy (2) and through comparing these three approaches we can see how the interpretations are shaped by the writers’ political agenda.

Joseph Stalin (1878–1953) saw Luxemburg as an enemy of his ideology and was prepared to vilify her and made an attempt to tarnish Luxemburg’s legacy after her death. Stalin’s construction of history was heavily influenced by his desire to consolidate his power and assert his own authority and his beliefs over all others. He was a devoted adherent of ‘Leninism’(3) and was driven to create an antithesis between it and any other school of thought to enforce it as the ‘correct’ ideology to follow. This pushed him to construct lines of thinking that obscured other important revolutionaries’ theories. Leon Trotsky fell victim to this the most. Stalin was considered an important authority on all matters including history, therefore his slander of the German left and specifically Rosa Luxemburg in Some Questions Concerning the History of Bolshevism (written in 1931) was taken seriously and spread in Germany where she was treated as the “Trotsky of the German Stalinists”(4) who compared her to syphilis at one point.(5) This left Luxemburg’s legacy tarnished in the eyes of the European left.

Stalin’s pamphlet Some Questions Concerning the History of Bolshevism criticises the German left and draws many of its claims about the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany) from the 1904 pamphlet by Luxemburg, Organizational Questions of the Russian Social Democracy (6) —which was later revised by Luxemburg after the 1917 Russian Revolution when she published The Russian Revolution (in 1918)). Stalin’s false narrative of ‘Luxemburgism’ begins with his claim that she “declared for the Mensheviks and against the Bolsheviks”(7) . There remains an element of historical truth in this as he refers to 1903 when Luxemburg criticised Bolshevik methods. However, no further discussion on the subsequent opinions of Luxemburg and the Spartacists/KPD (Communist Party of Germany) is provided by Stalin in his analysis, thus leading to a skewed and hostile interpretation of her work and professional opinions. This is only further reinforced when Stalin expresses “I need not speak of the other mistakes of the German Lefts, mistakes which were severely criticised in various articles by Lenin.”(8) . Stalin maintains the myth of Luxemburgism when he claims that Luxemburg constructed the “semi-Menshevik hotchpotch”(9) of “permanent revolution” which Trotsky(10) then adopted to be “turned into a weapon of struggle against Leninism”(11). This tactic to slander Luxemburg positions her with Trotsky, registering Luxemburg as an enemy of Stalin and Lenin(12) and misrepresenting Luxemburg’s work and opinions.

In her 1904 pamphlet, Organizational Questions of the Russian Social Democracy, Luxemburg did criticise the revolution but in her 1918 publication, The Russian Revolution, she clearly sympathises with and supports the Bolsheviks. She acknowledges that the Bolsheviks had been constrained by the historical post-war context that they had been forced to work within, and praises them for having taken action. In The Russian Revolution, she writes, “The Bolshevik’s have shown they are capable of everything that a genuine revolutionary party can contribute within the limits of historical possibilities. They are not to perform miracles”(13) .

Stalin’s slanderous and inaccurate historiographical approach to Luxemburg’s work caused many issues pertaining to her legacy. The narrative falsely paints Luxemburg as a harsh critic of Lenin and a sympathiser of the Mensheviks, placing her in the camp of centrism and reformism. This bastardisation of Luxemburg’s thoughts and ideas are harmful and are not a fair or accurate representation of them as Stalin omits many of the important revisions Luxemburg later made to her initial stance on the events in Russia. The Stalinist narrative of Luxemburgism was clearly used to discredit her ideas and to serve a Leninist political agenda.

Bertram Wolfe (1896–1977) used Stalin’s invented and hyperbolic narrative to criticise Lenin, thus creating a positive—but false—legacy for Luxemburg. Due to his status as a well-known scholar of Communist philosophy and history, Wolfe was highly respected among the “New Left” movement in the United States in the 1960s. He was the founder of the US communist party in 1919, and an early critic of Stalin and the doctrine Stalin labelled Marxism–Leninism. However, around the 1950s, Wolfe moved away from communism and became anti-communist with the advent of the Cold War. His bias against Stalinist ideas influenced his approach to writing left wing history. Wolfe’s approach to Luxemburg’s legacy was motivated by disgust toward Stalin. Since Stalin saw Luxemburg as an enemy, Wolfe adopted Stalin’s own narrative of Luxemburg to discredit Stalin. In doing this, he created a lionised, yet skewed, version of Luxemburg who was, ironically, similar to Stalin’s misinterpretation of her and who also aligned with many US values.

Wolfe’s anti Stalinist approach to Luxemburg is demonstrated in many examples from his work. In Rosa Luxemburg and V. I. Lenin: The Opposite Poles of Revolutionary Socialism (written in 1961), he compares the differences in Lenin’s and Luxemburg’s ideology and outwardly states “Rosa Luxemburg was prophetically right” in favour of her. However, this judgement of Luxemburg can be seen as an instrument in Wolfe’s desire to discredit Stalin and the Marxism–Leninism doctrine. He paints a picture of Luxemburg which appears to adhere to many American values(14) and contrasts these to Stalin’s Russia under Marxism–Leninism which he describes as a “ruthless dictatorship” . His construction of Luxemburg as someone aligned with US anti-communist values draws from his US anti-communist background. Wolfe draws on the same pamphlets Stalin drew upon in his Questions Concerning the History of Bolshevism. As with Stalin, Wolfe does not acknowledge Luxemburg’s reappraisal of the Russian Revolution. Wolfe instead manipulates her words to communicate the narrative that Luxemburg had many disagreements with Lenin. Although Wolfe was in support of Luxemburg, his appraisal is as equally inaccurate as Stalin’s.

Wolfe succeeds in vilifying Stalin using Luxemburg and creating a positive legacy for her in the eyes of the American ‘New Left’ of the 1960s, however, his methods are questionable, and the legacy constructed for Luxemburg is empirically inaccurate. Wolfe’s repetitive appraisal of Luxemburg and her “love for liberty” originates in his anti-Stalinist, pro-American bias. His construction of her using the language of a US patriot distorts her image and her ideology. While Rosa Luxemburg believed in freedom and liberty, she approached these questions in an entirely different way to US methods. Luxemburg saw the world through a lens of class consciousness and historical materialism and saw the path to freedom for the proletariat as a violent revolution.(15) This contrasts greatly with US methods of free market capitalism and classism. Another area Wolfe fails in his portrayal of Luxemburg is his claim that she had a “worship of spontaneity”(16) and “rejected authoritarianism”. Luxemburg never expressed that she “worshipped” spontaneity. While she preferred it, she never explicitly rejected an organised and planned approach to revolution. She recognised this approach could be effective after witnessing the success of the Bolshevik Party in the 1917 October Revolution in Russia. Luxemburg explicitly states in her pamphlet The Russian Revolution that she understood the requirement for Lenin’s and Bolshevik authority(17). Wolfe’s main argument in Rosa Luxemburg and V. I. Lenin: The Opposite Poles of Revolutionary Socialism is that Lenin and Luxemburg were “kept poles apart”(18) by ideological differences. However, Luxemburg supported Lenin and the Bolshevik party and Lenin praised Luxemburg and took her very seriously. Rosa Luxemburg was a leader of the German Social democrats and formed the Spartacist group, and in 1920, Lenin wrote, “…the German Social Democrats produced the finest leaders and recovered and gained strength more rapidly than the others did. This can be seen in both the instance of the Spartacists…”(19). The narrative that they were opposites was constructed by Stalin and was adopted by Wolfe in his attempt to attack Stalin and his ideology.

Recently, feminists have revitalised the story of Rosa Luxemburg by focusing on her personal attributes to create yet another version of her legacy. Dana Mills, a Marxist feminist activist and thinker writes about Luxemburg in an explicitly feminist biography Critical Lives: Rosa Luxemburg. Mills’ biography is the latest in a recent trend in writing about Luxemburg from a feminist perspective. Another example of this is Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg (2015) written by Kate Evans, a British feminist cartoonist. Evans’ portrayal of Luxemburg is viewed through a feminist lens and aims to convey that “She was more than just a thinker”. Both authors of these authors present a new legacy for Luxemburg as a feminist hero.

Mills’ biography expresses in the introduction that the book is “an explicitly feminist work” because “too often we see works focused on men’s’ professional accomplishments, or, conversely, women’s’ private lives”(20). Throughout her biography Mills draws heavily on Luxemburg’s letters, focusing on the thoughts and emotions that drove her ideology and life. Anecdotes demonstrating “her compassion for the animal kingdom, her anti-militarism, and her quest for justice”(21) are littered throughout the text. These include how she would not take her cat to prison because it was inhumane, and a story about the buffalo and the soldier. This same story of the buffalo is featured in Kate Evans’ graphic biography which takes a similar approach to Luxemburg’s story(22). Evans employs visual technique to add gravitas to the emotions and experiences of Luxemburg’s life and writing, providing for a more three-dimensional perspective on Luxemburg’s character. The biography depicts Luxemburg’s relationships, methods of thinking and accomplishments and provides a sympathetic, inspirational legacy for Luxemburg in 21st century left wing consciousness.

This redefinition of Luxemburg’s legacy in recent years from a feminist perspective has led to a change in the way Luxemburg is perceived. Mills and Evans successfully add personal dimensions to Luxemburg’s legacy and portray her in a heroic light, illustrating her as a martyr for feminism and the revolution. However, the increased focus on her private life and personality strips some importance from Luxemburg’s accomplishments and the magnitude of her intelligence, especially in the context of 21st patriarchal society. Mills writes, “Rosa’s letters from prison concerning nature show the intermeshing of solidarity, justice, and empathy”(23). However, attributing Luxemburg’s views to her emotions may be seen to diminish her intelligence and her accomplishments as a thinker(24). Constructing Luxemburg from a feminist perspective can be liberating. In seeing and acknowledging that women who have very feminine personalities—with traits like enormous empathy and a love for animals—can be strong-willed and powerful and can lead a revolution, women are freed from patriarchal expectations and empowered for the reasons they have been dismissed and marginalised for centuries. Yet, presenting Luxemburg, foremost, as a woman who embodies these feminised attributes, runs the risk of minimising or masking her profound and well-argued ideas concerning imperialism, implications of militarism and class(25).

Mills’ and Evans’ feminist lens can also imply that Luxemburg herself was a feminist, which she was not(26). This misdirects many people’s understanding and impression of Luxemburg and forces present day ideas onto a figure of the past(27). Luxemburg believed the revolution was the only path to liberating women and was outwardly against bourgeois feminism in Germany at the time, calling them “rabid supporters of the exploitation of the working people”(28). She was never explicitly a feminist, in fact she even turned down a request from her best friend and Marxist feminist, Clara Zetkin, to write for a feminist branch of the SPD(29). Although appropriated as a feminist hero, she did not explicitly see herself as a feminist(30).

To understand Luxemburg completely as a person and develop an informed opinion of her, it is vital to understand the personal and intimate side of her, but first to acknowledge her professional accomplishments and address her role in history. ‘Legacy’ is not synonymous with individual experiences and feelings. ‘Legacy’ is how a figure is thought of by the world and the impact they have on people’s lives and events in the world. While it is important that this is motivated by empathy and feeling, Rosa Luxemburg’s legacy was only achieved through her sophisticated thought, writing and actions, and it is these that should be highlighted by historians. Luxemburg’s treatment from the Marxist feminist perspective potentially leads to a trivialised view of her personality and empathetic traits rather than her accomplishments(31). In an attempt to rescue Luxemburg from patriarchal values, feminists such as Mills and Evans risk reducing Luxemburg to a woman in the eyes of a patriarchal world.

Rosa Luxemburg’s legacy has been approached through a variety of historiographical lenses since her death in 1919. The Stalinist and Wolfe interpretations misrepresent her as an enemy of Bolshevism and Leninism. Stalin chose to villainise her and create a negative legacy, while Wolfe, praised her and constructed an Americanised legacy for her. The Marxist feminist view adds personal detail to her story and highlights the importance of empathy but risks diminishing her achievements. Rosa Luxemburg is a political figure, and her portrayal usually serves the writer’s own political agenda, but their biases can be identified through reading Luxemburg’s own works. Although it has taken many forms, her legacy remains significant and lasting for many.

FOOTNOTES

(1) Leon Trotsky, “Hands off Rosa Luxemburg!”, The Militant Vol. V No.32 (1932): 11, https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1932/06/luxemburg.htm

(2) Others include Trotskyist perspectives coming from Tony Cliff, Peter Schwarz and Leon Trotsky, and the East German government’s interpretations of Luxemburg which dogmatically idolised her as a hero of the state.

(3) Stalin rushed to create Leninism and hail it as the “Marxism in the age of imperialism” in his struggle against what Stalin called the errors of communism. Joseph Stalin, “Concerning the Questions of Leninism”, Works, Vol. 8 (1926): 13-96, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1926/01/25.htm

(4) “What Trotskyism was to Stalin in Russia, Luxemburgism became for the Stalinists or Bolshevisers in Germany” J.P Nettl Rosa Luxemburg, (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), 799.

(5) “Protokoll, Erweiterte Executive der Kommunistischen Internationale, 17 Februar-15 März 1926, Hamburg 1926, p. 249.”; See also Nettl, Rosa Luxemburg, 806.

(6) Later renamed Leninism or Marxism by a silly Bertram Wolfe. Tim Wohlforth, “Hands off Rosa Luxemburg!”, International Socialist Review, Vol. 23 No. 1 ( Winter 1962): 25-26, https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/wohlforth/1962/xx/luxemburg.htm

(7) Joseph Stalin, “Some Questions Concerning the History of Bolshevism”, Works, Vol. 8 (1931): 1-12: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1931/x01/x01.htm

(8) Ibid

(9) Ibid

(10) Who was on his personal hit list, Nettl, Rosa Luxemburg, 802-803

(11) Stalin, “History of Bolshevism”, 1-12.

(12) They did have disagreements, however, by 1914, Lenin had taken the side of Luxemburg. Trotsky, “Hands off Rosa Luxemburg!”, 3.

(13) Rosa Luxemburg, “VIII. Democracy and Dictatorship”, in The Russian Revolution, trans. Bertram Wolfe (New York: Workers Age Publishers, 1940), 39.

(14) Such as liberty, freedom, and pacifism.

(15) Rosa Luxemburg, Reform or Revolution, second edition translated by Integer. (New York: Three Arrows Press, 1937). https://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1900/reform-revolution/index.htm.

(16) Bertram Wolfe, “Rosa Luxemburg and V. I. Lenin: The Opposite Poles of Revolutionary Socialism”, Antioch Review, Vol. 21, No. 2 (1961), 209-226, https://www.jstor.org/stable/4610334

(17) “Yes dictatorship! But this dictatorship consists in the manner of applying democracy, not in its elimination” Luxemburg, “VIII. Democracy and Dictatorship” in The Russian Revolution, 37.

(18) Wolfe, “Opposite Poles of Revolutionary Socialism”, 209-226.

(19) Vladimir Lenin, “IV: The Struggle Against Enemies within the Working-Class Movement Helped Bolshevism Develop, Gain Strength, and Become Steeled” in Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder (USSR, Progress publishers, 1964. First published 1920), 3.

(20) Dana Mills, Critical Lives: Rosa Luxemburg, first edition. (London: Reaktion Books Ltd, 2020), 12.

(21) Mills, Rosa Luxemburg, 117.

(22) Appendix does not exist here

(23) Mills, Rosa Luxemburg, 115.

(24) Daniel Finn, “Jacobin”, We Need to Rescue Rosa Luxemburg From the Soap Opera Treatment, 5th March 2021 https://www.jacobinmag.com/2021/03/rosa-luxemburg-socialism-history

(25) Ibid.

(26) Marie Friederikson, “Socialist.net”, Reclaiming the Revolutionary Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg, 5th March 2021, https://www.socialist.net/reclaiming-the-revolutionary-legacy-of-rosa-luxemburg.htm

(27) Marxism feminism did exist in the early 20th century, pioneered by figures like Alexandra Kollontai, however, Luxemburg did not have any focus at all on the “woman question” having only written two works about it: Women’s Suffrage and Class Struggle criticising bourgeois feminism, and The Proletarian Woman expressing support for working class women.

(28) Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Suffrage and Class Struggle, trans. Rosemarie Waldrop, ed. Dick Howard (Monthly Review Press, 1971). https://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1912/05/12.htm

(29) She turned it down for other reasons too. See Finn, “Jacobin”.

(30) Friederikson, “Jacobin”.

(31) Finn, "Jacobin"