The saint of the workers’ movement is traced by an ensemble in the Schwankhalle with the means of dance theater: "Rosa Luxemburg".
Agitating icon: Rosa Luxemburg Photo: Archive
A carnival club, Luxemburg’s gay organization, a comedian’s stage character? When theater maker Michael Rettig researched Bremen students to find out what they thought about Rosa Luxemburg, he discovered that the fighter for women’s emancipation and leading figure of the labor movement is not even known by name.
That’s why today, 7 p.m., he brings a brash piece of remedial theater to the stage of the Schwankhalle using means of dance, drama and music. The premiere, simply titled "Rosa Luxemburg," is intended to raise awareness for the political revolutionary and to outline the basics of practical Marxism by means of a chronological retelling of her biography. Luxemburg formulated it with rebellious clarity as early as 1898 in the essay "Social Reform or Revolution?
Rettig has doubled the leading role in his piece. The loving, empathetic, energetically combative facets are portrayed by dancer Magali Sander-Fett, the intellectual side is embodied by actress Franziska Mencz with plenty of quotations on her lips, and a quartet of musicians explores "The Internationale" as a post-communist new composition. With Rettig at the piano. "Fortunately, I don’t have to live from this art production," says the 60-year-old, "I earn my money as a civil servant, have a half-time job as a teacher." The Neustadter teaches German, art and music at the Kurt-Schumacher-Allee secondary school.
Too big a head, long nose, stocky build, limping due to hip damage – "all that led Rosa Luxemburg to reject herself as a woman. Their whole capital was education and intelligence, which at the same time was a large part of their erotic capital," Rettig said. "There was no shortage of lovers." What he does not want to understate.
But above all, the aim is to portray a professional politician who did not constantly compromise for the sake of maintaining her own power, but "was a man of conviction." While in 1914 almost everyone, including the bourgeois social democracy, welcomed World War 1 in a frenzy of nationalism, the internationalist said: No. She saw in the war not a patriotic event, but the unleashing of capitalism: "The dividends rise, and the proletarians fall." To conscientious objection the pacifist called.
Luxemburg never thought of a real failing SED socialism, never experienced a democratized capitalism, only guessed at the totalitarian despotism of Stalinism – so that in ultra-left virginity she could long for the "dictatorship of the proletariat" in a communist world society. Which does not seem very sexy today.
Are Luxemburg’s concerns still relevant? "She was right in her opposition to Lenin and the Russian Bolsheviks, that socialism would not work without democracy, that freedom is always freedom for those who think differently," Rettig emphasizes.
Michael Rettig, theater maker
"Her whole capital was education and intelligence"
The doctor of political science also put her finger in the social wounds. "Her statement that the heart of capitalism is the cash box hits the nerve of our time." Is she an identification figure? "Yes, because neither rage nor hatred, but anger drove her," he says, and hopes his evening can be "a small contribution to fostering this anger at today’s conditions."
For the play’s finale, Rosa Luxemburg celebrates resurrection. "She’s not a saint, but we need more people of that ilk burning for social justice today," Rettig explains, "so I took the liberty of bringing Rosa back and writing her a speech: her view of our present."
Which she immediately compares to her past: "Income inequality in Germany is again as great as it was in my time in the Wilhelmine era … There are tax havens where unimaginable sums are evaded. The political personnel: corrupt, cynical, or too cowardly to mess with the really powerful. European social democracy, similar to August 1914, a total failure. The left is marginalized. The right is on the rise.
The poor despised, the lower middle class left behind. Flexible people, armed to the teeth with human capital and yet without real security. War to the huts, peace to the palaces – the reversal of enlightenment and democracy, the reversal of liberty, equality, fraternity.
The destruction of the European welfare state. This is the program that you are reliving today and that I already experienced then." And now? There the spectator runs out of the theater refueled with a good portion of anger and finds no working group preparing the general strike, or barricades on which he could fight off right away. Where to put the justice bull and Luxemburg’s unshakable optimism? "Into the possibility of fundamentally asking for alternatives to caputtalism," Rettig says.