[Marxism] Assistance Needed re Translation of Rosa Luxemburg

Paul Flewers rfls12802 at blueyonder.co.uk
Thu Dec 11 17:10:51 MST 2008

I am preparing for publication in the next issue of Revolutionary History a
translation an article from 1914 by Rosa Luxemburg on women's rights, and
our editor can't answer a query.

In it, Luxemburg wrote: 'Daher der possenhafte Charakter der
suffragettenbewegung.' This has been translated as: 'Thence the farcical
character of the suffragette movement.'

Can anyone with an historical knowledge of German let me know if the word
'suffragette' was in use in Germany at that point? The word was first coined
in Britain by the Daily Mail (then as now a nasty right-wing rag) as a
derogatory term for advocates for women's suffrage, but was subsequently
adopted by them. (The term 'suffragist' was used as an alternative,
especially in the USA.) 

If the term was not in common use in Germany, it is possible that she picked
up the word from Clara Zetkin, who spoke at British socialist rallies that
called for universal suffrage. Also, shortly before writing the article,
Luxemburg, along with Zetkin, was at the Basle Peace Conference, where they
met Dora Montefiore, a British Socialist Party member, who had once worked
with such noted suffragettes as the Pankhursts, but who by this time was a
fierce critic of bourgeois feminists. It is possible that they discussed the
British women's suffrage movement; if so, I could imagine that they were all
very critical of bourgeois feminists, and their antipathy emerged in
Luxemburg's article shortly afterwards.

Paul F

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