Rosa Luxemburg on the Constituent Assembly (1918)

Rosa Luxemburg was a female socialist who, with Karl Liebknecht, led the Spartacist uprising in Germany in early 1919. The previous year she criticised the Bolshevik dissolution of the Constituent Assembly:

“The well-known dissolution of the Constituent Assembly in November 1917… represented a turning point in [Bolshevik] tactics… Lenin and his comrades were stormily demanding the calling of a Constituent Assembly up to the time of their October victory, and the policy of ragging out [delaying] this matter on the part of the Kerensky government… was the basis of some of their most violent attacks upon it. Indeed, Trotsky says in his interesting pamphlet, ‘From October to Brest-Litovsk’, that the October Revolution represented “the salvation of the Constituent Assembly” as well as of the revolution as a whole”… And then, after these declarations, Lenin’s first step after the October Revolution was … the dissolution of this same Constituent Assembly, to which it was supposed to be an entrance…

‘The cumbersome mechanism of democratic institutions’ possesses a powerful corrective – namely, the living movement of the masses, their unending pressure. And the more democratic the institutions, the livelier and stronger the pulse-beat of the political life of the masses, the more direct and complete is their influence – despite rigid party banners, outgrown tickets (electoral lists), etc.

To be sure, every democratic institution has its limits and shortcomings, things which it doubtless shares with all other human institutions. But the remedy which Trotsky and Lenin have found, the elimination of democracy as such, is worse than the disease it is supposed to cure; for it stops up the very living source from which alone can come correction of all the innate shortcomings of social institutions. That source is the active, untrammelled, energetic political life of the broadest masses of the people.”