Rosa Luxemburg on Capitalism and Revolution

The economic, political and revolutionary theorist Rosa Luxemburg is essential to understanding modern capitalism. Her life as a Polish/German left-wing Social Democrat gives key insights in the struggle for freedom against capital. She was born in Poland in 1871 and was murdered by the the far right Friekorps militias in 1919 along with fellow revolutionary Karl Liebknecht. Her life and works are essential to understanding the development of Left Communism as a movement and tradition.  The Council Communists after World War I were heavily influenced by her ideas. This tradition lead to the Autonomist Marxism of the 1960s and 1970s and has great relevance for today’s revolutionaries.

Without Rosa Luxemburg’s inspiration these movements would have looked quite different in comparison. Her piercing insights into the theory and method of revolutionary thought, her critique of Lenin’s Democratic Centralism and the bureaucracy created by the Bolsheviks in the Russian revolution of 1917 are key to an understanding of the way forward today. Also, her inspirational writings, for example ‘The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions,’ help provide insights into both the problems and potential of revolutionary struggle under capitalism today.

Reading List:

Rosa Luxemburg – Social Reform Or Revolution?

Rosa Luxemburg – Organizational Questions of the Russian Social Democracy

Rosa Luxemburg – The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions

Rosa Luxemburg – The Russian Revolution

Rosa Luxemburg – The Accumulation of Capital

Rosa Luxemburg – Socialism or Barbarism?: The Selected Writings of Rosa Luxemburg   

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s writings

Here are the writings of Pierre Joseph-Proudhon, the first person in modern history to proclaim themselves an anarchist. He was a firm advocate of the traditions of revolutionary France. Being born into poverty in rural France, he achieved a scholarship and became a brilliant student of philosophy and a socialist theorist. He was deeply involved in the movements of the revolution in 1848, writing for radical newspapers. Proudhon was at one point elected to the National Assembly, using these experiences of parliament and its failure, to practically theorise his anarchist ideas. He suffered repression and exile after the coup of Napoleon III in 1851.

His early anarchist ideas and experiences, provide the foundation stone, on which the anarchist movement is built, influencing deeply the development of Bakunin and Kropotkin, as well as Marx and Engels early on. His mutualist theories were superseded in development by Bakunin’s collectivism and Kropotkin’s libertarian communism. Proudhon became opposed to the developing strategy of political parties by communists like Marx and Engels, which is one reason why he came out so strongly against communism.

His writings on the critique of social institutions – capitalism, church and state – are crucial to the pursuit and understanding of freedom. His discussion of the revolution, organisation and federation are also essential. His main political work was ‘General Idea of Revolution in the Nineteenth Century’ and also important for organisational theory, ‘The Principle of Federation.’ All are worth reading. ‘The Philosophy of Misery’ and ‘The Principle of Federation’ are in the second parts only partially translated. Also important are ‘Confessions of a Revolutionary’, about his experience of 1848 and ‘The Political Capacity of the Working Classes’, both of which can be found in the Ak Press edition of ‘Property is Theft’, (

Reading List:

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon – General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century

Pierre Joseph-Proudhon – The  Principle of Federation

Pierre Joseph-Proudhon – What is Property?

Pierre Joseph-Proudhon – The Philosophy of Misery


The Zapatista’s, Argentina and Greece

The struggle against modern oppressors is a living, breathing process, full of challenges and difficulty. However, more recent historical events give valuable insight into the struggle, such as the 1994 Zapatista uprising, the movement against world bank austerity in Argentina and the revolt of 2008 in Greece. These show us possibilities for action to achieve liberty, equality and fraternity. Greece is the most recent example, and is particularly instructive for Brisbane:

Reading List:

Subcomandante Marcos – Beyond Resistance

Subcomandante Marcos – Our Word is Our Weapon

Subcomandante Marcos – The Speed of Dreams

Marina Sitrin – Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina

A. G. Schwarz, Tasos Sagris, Void Network – Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina

The Italian Autonomist movement

The Italian revolutionary movement is another important moment to study. From the early 1960s, to the hot autumn of 1969, to the ‘Autonomia‘ of the 1970s the struggle raged in Italy. This was part of the larger wave of working class revolt sweeping across Europe in Paris 1968, leading to the breakup of the Keynesian economic consensus.

For the Italian ‘Workerists‘ and later ‘Autonomia‘, this was a time of great experimentation and lively working class social movements. These movements rocked the foundations of Italian society. The theoretical and practical experiments provide a framework for some of the challenges we face, in a time of class recomposition and ruling class attack. The insights they provide are deeply valuable to all Libertarian Communists:

Reading List –

Robert Lumley – States of Emergency: Cultures of Revolt in Italy from 1968 to 1978

Red Notes – Italy 1977-8: Living with an earthquake – Class Struggle in Italy: 1960s and 1970s

Sylvere Lotringer, Christian Marazzi – Autonomia: Post-political Politics

Emilio Mentasti – The Magneti Marelli Workers Committee – The Red Guard Tells Its Story

Steve Wright – Storming Heaven – Class Composition and Struggle in Italian Autonomist Marxism

Panzieri, Sohn-Rethel, Palloix, Bologna, Tronti- The Labour Process & Class Strategies

Antionio Negri – Books for Burning: Between Civil War and Democracy in 1970s Italy

Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt – Empire

Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt – Multitude

Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt – Commonwealth

George Caffentzis – In Letters of Blood and Fire

Silvia Federici – Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction and Feminist Struggle

Midnight Notes Collective – Midnight Oil : Work, Energy, War, 1973-1992

Midnight Notes Collective – Promissory Notes

The Sojourner Truth Organization’s Pamphlets

Sojourner Truth Organization – Workplace Papers

Sojourner Truth Organization – Shop Leaflets

John Holloway- Change the world without taking power

John Holloway – Crack Capitalism

Harry Cleaver – Reading  Capital Politically

Franco ”Bifo” Berardi – The Soul at Work From Alienation to Autonomy

Franco “Bifo” Berardi – The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance

Paris, May 1968

The Uprising of Paris, May 1968 developed from chain of struggles, in Europe and the world against bourgeois institutions. Started by students, it spread to the mass of workers, and culminated in at least 10 million workers going on wildcat general strike across France, against the will of trade unions, the communist party and the Gaullist state. The crisis of the refusal of work and discipline, was part of a major breakdown of capitalism known as Keynesianism, the welfare state and post-war social democracy. The mass rebellions, once defeated, paved the way for the eventual defeat of the working class in the first world and the new system of neoliberalism.

Paris 1968 was influenced by a rejuvenated libertarian Marxism and anarchism. It was influenced partly by Council Communists, critical theorists and the left Communists. The revolution in Hungary in 1956, which created workers councils, was a big influence on the emergence of the movement. The movement was pushed forward by the renewed Libertarian Socialism from in the USA the ‘Johnson-Forest Tendency‘ of C. L. R. James, the French journal ‘Socialisme ou Barbarie’, the Situationist movement in France, the growing ‘Workerist‘ current of the ‘Quaderni Rossi’ journal in Italy and Solidarity in the UK. This was part of a new rethinking of Socialism. The movements of 1968 afterwards influenced the autonomist movements in Italy, Germany, the USA and globally. The modern Greek anarchist movement is heavily influenced by these movements. Here are some important writings from this era:

Reading List:

Anton Pannekoek – Workers Councils

Anton Pannekoek – The Essential Pannekoek

C. L. R. James – A History Of Pan-african Revolt

C. L. R. James – State Capitalism and World Revolution

C. L. R. James – A New Notion: Two Works By C. L. R. James, Every Cook Can Govern and The Invading Socialist Society

C. L. R. James – Modern Politics

C. L. R. James – Facing Reality

Andy Anderson – Hungary ‘56

Cornelius Castoriadis – Workers’ councils and the economics of self-managed society

Guy Debord – The Society of the Spectacle

Maurice Brinton – For Workers’ Power: The Selected Writings of Maurice Brinton

Daniel and Gabriel Cohn-Bendit – Obsolete Communism: The Left-wing alternative

Marx’s Critique of Political Economy

The contribution of Marx and Engels is essential to an understanding of a libertarian communist politics. It is a tool for the working class to critique capitalism, and to analyse class composition for future struggles. Here is a reading List of his major works, (Michael Heinrich’s introduction is a good place to start):

Reading List:

Michael Heinrich – An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital

Karl Marx – Early Writings

Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels – The German Ideology

Karl Marx – Wage Labour and Capital and Value Price and Profit

Karl Marx – The Civil War in France

Karl Marx – The Political Writings

Karl Marx- Dispatches For the New York Tribune

Karl Marx – Capital Volume I, II and III

Karl Marx – A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

Karl Marx – The Grundrisse

Karl Marx – The Theories of Surplus Value

Tom Bottomore – A Dictionary of Marxist Thought

Anti-Colonialism and Black Liberation

In the struggle against Capitalism, church and state, colonialism and racism are essential in maintaining class hierarchies. Racism is used by these bourgeois institutions as a social control mechanism. This divides the working class and proletariat along lines of skin colour, with the supposed civilisational hierarchies of the European elites. Today, people of colour and Indigenous people remain largely margininalised and poor in the Global North and the Global South. The concept of whiteness, itself, is based on false cultural and class unity of European people. Here are some useful books on this struggle:

Reading List:

Franz Fanon – The Wretched of the Earth

Lorenzo Komboa Ervin – Anarchism and the Black Revolution

C. L.  R.  James – A History Of Pan-african Revolt

Subcomandante Marcos – Beyond Resistance

W E Dubois – Black Reconstruction

W E Dubois – The Souls of Black Folk

Dan Georgakas – Detroit, I do mind dying

Walter Rodney – How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

Women, Feminism and Sexuality

In the struggle against the bourgeoisie, it is essential to address the power relations and imbalances between genders and sexualities. Under Capitalism, the Patriarchal family serves an important role in reproducing wage labour and providing emotional labour. This is essential to the reproduction of the nuclear family and the maintenance of the workers’ ability to perform paid labour. Here are some good texts on socialist feminism and sexuality, from both Marxist and Anarchist perspectives:

Reading List:

Martha A. Ackelsberg – Free Women of Spain – Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women

Silvia Federici – Caliban and the Witch

Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James – The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community

Mariarosa Dalla Costa – Women And The Subversion Of The Community: A Mariarosa Dalla Costa Reader

Silvia Federici – Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle

Selma James – Sex, Race and Class: The Perspective of Winning

Nina Power – One Dimensional Woman

Michel Foucault – A History Of Sexuality

Australian class and labour history

Here are some documents on the Australian labour movement and class history. These help us in knowing where we are now, where we have come from and where we are going as a class.

Reading List:

Raewyn Connell And Terry Irving – Class Structure in Australian History

Raffaello Carboni – The Eureaka Stockade

Ian Turner – In Union Is Strength: A History Of Trade Unions 1788-1983

Bob James – A Reader of Australian Anarchism 1886-1896

E H Lane – Dawn to Dusk

Gordon V Childe – How Labour Governs

Ian Turner – Industrial Labour and Politics – The Labour Movement in Eastern Australia 1900-1921

Humphrey McQueen – A New Britannia

Verity Burgmann – Revolutionary Industrial Unionism: the Industrial Workers of the World in Australia

Ian Turner – Sydney’s Burning

Robin Gollan – Revolutionaries and Reformists – Communism and the Australian Labour Movement 1920-1955

Stuart Macintyre – The Reds: The Communist Party of Australia: From Origins to Illegality

Tom O’lincoln – The Militant Minority: Organising rank and file workers in the thirties

Tom O’lincoln – Into the Mainstream: The decline of Australian Communism

Solidarity – Queensland Mt Isa Miners strike

Jon Piccini, Evan Smith and Matthew Worley ed. The Far Left in Australia since 1945

Meredith Burgmann and Verity Burgmann – Green Bans, Red Union: Environmental Activism and the New South Wales Builders Labourers’ Federation

Sam Oldham – Without Bosses: Radical Australian Trade Unionism in The 1970s

Jack Hutson – Australian Left Review, Workers Control 1969

Bernie Taft- Australian Left Review, Communists and Workers Control 1969

Australian Left Review- Symposium – Workers Control 1973

Verity Burgmann, Ray Jureidini Meredith Burgmann – Doing without the Boss, Workers’ Control Experiments in Australia in the 1970s, Chapter inside Immanuel Ness – New Forms of Worker Organization: The Syndicalist and Autonomist Restoration of Class Struggle Unionism

Frank Stilwell – The Accord and Beyond

Elizabeth Humphrys – How Labour Built Neoliberalism: Australia’s Accord, the Labour Movement and the Neoliberal Project

Anarchosyndicalism, the Russian and the Spanish revolutions

Here are some selected writings on anarchosyndicalism, the Russian revolution and the Spanish Revolution. The ideas and organisation practised by the anarchosyndicalist movement are vital to consider in the struggle for working class liberation. The two revolutions were two pivotal events in the global syndicalist union movement. They give ideas for new forms of struggle in Brisbane today:

Reading List:

Immanuel Ness: Ours to Master and to Own: Workers’ Control from the Commune to the Present

Fernand Pelloutier – History of the Bourses du Travail

Solfed – A History Of Anarcho Syndicalism

Rudolph Rocker – Anarcho-Syndicalism

Vadim Damier – Anarcho Syndicalism in 20th century

Solfed – Fighting For Ourselves

Murray Bookchin – To Remember Spain: Thee anarchist and syndicalist revolution of 1936

Murray Bookchin – The Spanish Anarchists-The heroic years, 1868-1936

Stuart Christie – We, the anarchists! A study of the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) 1927-1937

Abel Paz – Durruti in the Spanish Revolution

Robert Michels – Political Parties

GP Maximoff  – The Program of Anarchosyndicalism

Volume – The Unknown Revolution: 1917-1921

Maurice Brinton- The Bolsheviks and Workers Control 1917-1921, The State and Counter-revolution