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03/20/2022

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Matt

..."despite their mutual admiration"...

I wonder about this bit. I haven't read all of the items you're quoting from, but I have read Lenin's articles collected together in the volume _National Liberation, Socialism, and Imperialism_, and there...I do not get the impression of "admiration" from him towards Luxemburg. Rather, he (in his rather annoying way, one common to lots of Marxists, from the founder on down, alas) spends a lot of time calling Luxemburg confused, obviously wrong, guilty of selective quotation, of having put herself in ridiculous positions,of writing articles that are "a collection of errors in logic that could be used for schoolboy exercises" and so on. No where in that volume, at least, do I find any real indication of respect or admiration - just rhetorical street fighting. Similarly, in the papers collected as "The Russian Revolution and Leninism or Marxism" by Luxemberg doesn't seem to me to show much admiration for Lenin, but rather disdain and contempt.

(To my mind both are wrong, often obviously so, and Bernstein was mostly right, but leave that aside.)

So, I'm curious - do you really find "mutual admiration" in the earlier writings, which is, it seems, gone within a few years, or do you think that the name-calling, petty bickering, and rhetorical excess both engage in (though more so Lenin, it seems to me) is like a pro wresting show or something?

ERIC SCHLIESSER

Hi Matt,
I am not an expert on the matter, but there are letters between them that suggest to me genuine mutual affection (mixed with mutual interest) and a practice of mutual socializing. See, for example, Letter of May 18, 1909 from Lenin to Luxemburg (which can be easily found online). So, it is my sense that they managed to engage in polemics with each other without it completely souring their interactions. But if I am wrong on this, it wouldn't change my view of this debate or even my judgment on their political characters, and I am happy to be corrected on this point.
Eric

Matt

Yes, I'm hardly an expert either, and haven't read any of their correspondence, but at least by the time of the pieces I've read (noted above), the contempt seems real. It actually makes the Lenin stuff much less enjoyable to read to me - it's just so full of petty name-calling, while rhetorical excess, etc., often in the place of arguments. That's too bad, because the actual ideas are pretty interesting. (Annie Stilz has a really good paper she's working on on Lenin's theory of nationalism working some of these out, for example.) The Luxemburg I've read (mostly the one thing I've noted, and a bit of economic writing) is less rhetorical, but still seems full of contempt. (I'll add that this is something I hate about reading Marx, too - so much petty name-calling and point-scoring for no good reason! I guess some people like this stuff, but to me it's just awful.)

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