Rosa Luxemburg
The Industrial Development of Poland

Translator’s Note

This translation was originally completed in 1976, as part of a political project very distant from the person I am now. Although its inadequacies are all too obvious, I am even less capable of remedying them than I was back then. Given that no better translation is available, my youthful effort will, I hope, be read with forbearance.

The Industrial Development of Poland, the first comprehensive economic history of Poland ever published, was Rosa Luxemburg’s doctoral thesis, winning her a Doctor of Law degree in 1897 from the University of Zurich. She had been active in revolutionary politics for at least a decade before the thesis was written, and it was both a serious piece of academic research and a salvo against her opponents in the Socialist International, particularly the Polish Socialist Party.

While the PSP championed Polish nationalism, Luxemburg’s tiny Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland countered with a platform of class struggle and international working-class solidarity. In the 1890s Luxemburg and her party used the Polish dispute to make a public issue of the International leadership’s acceptance of nationalism and gradualism. Her dissertation was a final settling of accounts on the “Polish question” as she moved beyond Polish politics to become an international socialist leader operating out of the German Social Democracy – the role that won her a place in socialism’s historic pantheon.

Luxemburg begins her history with the partition of Poland in 1795, when the Kingdom of Poland – a feudal agricultural society based on serfdom, ruled by a parliamentary republic representing the country’s nobility – was divided between Austria, Prussia, and Russia, with Russia taking the largest portion.

Nationalist Poles fought beside Napoleon in the Franco-Prussian War in 1806, in exchange for promises of Polish independence. But the following year Napoleon negotiated an agreement with the Russian czar whereby a portion of Prussia’s section of Poland was rechristened the Duchy of Warsaw and brought into Napoleon’s sphere of influence. After Napoleon’s victories over Austria in 1809, the Duchy was expanded to include some of Austria’s Polish territories.

Following Napoleon’s defeat in the War of 1812, Russia invaded the Duchy of Warsaw, and in 1814 the Vienna Congress reaffirmed a new partition of Poland, with Russia now in control of most of what had been the Duchy. Renamed the Kingdom of Poland (also known as the Congress Kingdom or Congress Poland), it was nominally a separate country but under the rule of Russia. An attempted rebellion in 1831 convinced Russia to further tighten its control.

In 1856 Russia announced a program of land and other reforms. In response came a crescendo of nationalism in Poland, in tandem with a revolutionary wave in Russia. Polish unrest climaxed in the Insurrection of 1863, which was crushed by Russia the following year. Congress Poland was reduced to a czarist province, and the Russian government aggressively pursued the tightening of economic ties that Luxemburg describes.

Her dissertation uses several Russian units of measure. Here are their metric equivalents:

1 berkovez = 10 poods = 163.8 kilograms
1 pood = 16.38 kilograms
1 Russian pound = 409.51 grams
1 verst = 1,066.79 meters
1 arshin = 0.71 meters
1 desyatin = 1.0925 hectares

Tessa DeCarlo

Last updated on: 28.11.2008