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Rosa Luxemburg and International Law - Call for Abstracts

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Rosa Luxemburg: a revolutionary theorist and political activist, whose work has provided important political economy critiques of imperialism, capitalism, nationalism and advocated for the collective commitment to social justice. While recent books have celebrated her life and intellectual and political legacy,[1] engagement with her work in international law, although with some notable exceptions,[2] has been largely marginal. Despite her sharp and insightful analysis of the nexus between colonialism and capitalist accumulation and her commitment to anti-militarism and internationalism, Luxemburg’s work remains less visible and prominent than male social thinkers.[3]

We believe that placing Rosa Luxemburg’s work into conversation with international law - historically and with an eye to the future - can add significantly to our understanding of international legal debates in relation to imperialism, capitalism, ableism, and questions of race, class and gender critique.

In this call for abstracts, we are therefore encouraging expressions of interest to collectively explore what an engagement with Luxemburg’s work may offer at this juncture of neoliberal capitalism, climate disaster, and pandemic. (Events that Rosa Luxemburg didn’t live to see but predicted with her work.)

Some themes that may be of interest include:

  • Luxemburg’s analysis of imperialism and primitive accumulation – might we, for example, learn something about how different areas of international economic law, from investment to finance to intellectual property to labour and environmental protection, operate through processes of primitive accumulation and expansionary marketisation?[4]
  • Luxemburg’s work on self-determination and the question of national independence – might we better understand the tensions between self-determination, nationalism, and liberation by adopting a historical materialist view?[5] Might this, more broadly, teach us something about dissent in relation to both orthodox and heterodox theories of statehood and internationalism?
  • Luxemburg’s work on reform or revolution – can we gain a deeper understanding of the critique of international law and praxis and international law by working through Luxemburg’s famous engagement with the topic?[6]
  • Gender, imperialism and intersecting layers of oppression– can we be guided by Luxemburg’s thinking to consider what a revolution from below, as the daily building of revolutionary consciousness, may mean for gender justice? And how it might disrupt gendered ideas of radical internationalism (in their intersections with race, ethnicity, class, disability, legal status)?[7]
  • Her strategy of rupture in the courtroom – is there a way of thinking about radical courtroom practices, or radical pedagogy practices, through considering Luxemburg’s strategy of rupture when she was herself facing charges in the German courts?
  • Mass strike, international socialism and the immaterial work of being a comrade – Luxemburg always maintained that declaring oneself a ‘socialist’ was not enough. Integrity and commitment to social justice entails commitment to an overarching struggle beyond borders. How can we use her insights to rethink the international economic, political and philanthropic systems that reproduce exploitation?

Deadline for the call for abstracts: 31 July 2021

Please email abstracts to and


December 2021: virtual writing workshop

Spring 2022: workshop for further discussion of papers (restrictions permitting, this may be possible in person).

November 2022: Final papers

Early 2023: publication date. We will consider the form and forum for publication together.

[1] Kate Evans, Red Rosa (Verso 2015), Dana Mills, Rosa Luxemburg (Reaktion Books 2020), Klaus Gietinger, The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg (Verso 2019), Jane Anna Gordon and Drucilla Cornell (eds), Creolizing Rosa Luxemburg (Rowans & Littlefield 2021). Ankica Cakardic, Like a Clap of Thunder: three essays on Rosa Luxemburg, 2020;

Gupta, C. (2019). Remembering Rosa Luxemburg on Her Death Centenary. Social Scientist, 47(7/8 (554-555)), 53-64. Retrieved May 10, 2021, from

[2] Deborah Whitehall, ‘A Rival History of Self-Determination’ (2016) 27(3) European Journal of International Law 719-743; Alexandra Kemmerer, ‘Editing Rosa: Luxemburg, the Revolution, and the Politics of Infantilization’ (2016) European Journal of International Law 853-864; Bowring, Bill (2008) The Degradation Of The International Legal Order?: The Rehabilitation Of Law And The Possibility Of Politics (Abingdon, Routledge Cavendish; Robert Knox, ‘Strategy and Tactics’ (21) Finnish Yearbook of International Law 193-229.

Christine Schwöbel-Patel, Marketing Global Justice: The Political Economy of International Criminal Law (CUP 2021), Chapter 9; Deborah Whitehall, ‘The reign of order and the rights of siege according to Rosa Luxemburg’ in Immi Tallgren (ed), Portraits of Women in International Law: New Names and Forgotten Faces? (OUP forthcoming 2021).

[3] On the ‘missing portraits’ of women in international law more generally, see Immi Tallgren (ed), Por Portraits of Women in International Law: New Names and Forgotten Faces? (OUP forthcoming 2021).

[4] Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital, Section III.

[5] Rosa Luxemburg, The National Question

[6] Rosa Luxemburg, Reform or Revolution

[7] Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Suffrage and Class Struggle