Main content

Rosa Luxemburg

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Rosa Luxemburg, 'Red Rosa', a leading revolutionary and agitator in Poland and Germany until her arrest and murder in the Spartacus Revolt 1919.

Melvyn Bragg discusses the life and times of Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919), 'Red Rosa', who was born in Poland under the Russian Empire and became one of the leading revolutionaries in an age of revolution. She was jailed for agitation and for her campaign against the Great War which, she argued, pitted workers against each other for the sake of capitalism. With Karl Liebknecht and other radicals, she founded the Spartacus League in the hope of ending the war through revolution. She founded the German Communist Party with Liebknecht; with the violence that followed the German Revolution of 1918, her opponents condemned her as Bloody Rosa. She and Liebknecht were seen as ringleaders in the Spartacus Revolt of 1919 and, on 15th January 1919, the Freikorps militia arrested and murdered them. While Luxemburg has faced opposition for her actions and ideas from many quarters, she went on to become an iconic figure in East Germany under the Cold War and a focal point for opposition to the Soviet-backed leadership.


Jacqueline Rose
Co-Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck, University of London

Mark Jones
Irish Research Council fellow at the Centre for War Studies, University College Dublin


Nadine Rossol
Senior lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Essex

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

50 minutes

Last on

Thu 13 Apr 2017 21:30


Jacqueline Rose at Birkbeck, University of London

Mark Jones at University College Dublin

Nadine Rossol at the University of Essex

Rosa Luxemburg Internet Archive –

Social Democratic Party of Germany - International Encyclopedia of the First World War

Karl Liebknecht - International Encyclopedia of the First World War

Clara Zetkin - International Encyclopedia of the First World War

Rosa Luxemburg - Wikipedia



Georg Adler, Peter Hudis and Annelies Laschitza (eds.), The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg (Verso, 2011)

Sally Campbell, A Rebel’s Guide to Rosa Luxemburg (Bookmarks, 2011)

Kate Evans, Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg (Verso, 2015)

Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson (eds.), The Rosa Luxemburg Reader (Monthly Review Press, 2004)

Mathilde Jacob, Rosa Luxemburg: An Intimate Portrait (Lawrence & Wishart, 2000)

Mark Jones, Founding Weimar: Violence and the German Revolution of 1918-19 (Cambridge University Press, 2016)

Robert Looker (ed.), Rosa Luxemburg: Selected Political Writings (Jonathan Cape Ltd, 1972)

J. P. Nettl, Rosa Luxemburg (Oxford Paperbacks, 1969)

Jacqueline Rose, Women in Dark Times (Bloomsbury, 2014), especially chapter 1 ‘Woman on the verge of revolution: Rosa Luxemburg’

Helmut Trotnow, Karl Liebknecht, 1871-1919: A Political Biography (Archon Books, 1984)

K. Weinhauer, A. McElligott and K. Heinsohn (eds.), Germany 1916-23: A Revolution in Context (Transcript-Verlag, 2015), especially 'Incapable of Securing Order? The Prussian Police and the German Revolution 1918/19' by Nadine Rossol

Benjamin Ziemann, War Experiences in Rural Germany 1914-1923 (Berg Publishers, 2006)


Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Jacqueline Rose
Interviewed Guest Mark Jones
Interviewed Guest Nadine Rossol
Producer Simon Tillotson


  • Thu 13 Apr 2017 09:00
  • Thu 13 Apr 2017 21:30

Featured in...

In Our Time podcasts

In Our Time podcasts

Every episode of In Our Time is available to download.

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

If you’re new to In Our Time, this is a good place to start.

Arts and Ideas podcast

Arts and Ideas podcast

Download the best of Radio 3's Free Thinking programme.