One evening in May I watched Margarethe von Trotta’s 1986 film Rosa Luxemburg starring Barbara Sukowa. The version I saw was in German with English subtitles and it served as my introduction to an extraordinary woman revolutionary.

Born into a Jewish family in Poland in 1870, Rosa Luxemburg had to leave her home country to attend university in Switzerland. In 1897, she was awarded a doctorate in law. Her vision for a Marxist socialist revolution was that it would grow without violence from the grass roots upwards. She hoped that workers throughout the world would develop the spiritual understanding and moral framework they required to co-operate in harmony.

Her political activism meant that she was in and out of prison. Held in protective custody for much of the First World War, she was allowed to keep her books, to write letters and to create a little garden in part of the prison yard. Some of the scenes which moved me most start around 75 minutes into the film as Rosa muses on the importance of remembering to look at the beauty of the natural world.

Rosa was murdered by political opponents on 15th January 1919 in Berlin during the suppression of the workers’ revolution.

The morning after I watched the film, I had the experience which led me to write this.


For Rosa

Out about my busy-ness,

I stop – am stopped –

By a hawthorn tree.

See, it says, see these flowers.

See nature in spring.

This is the real life.

I am assailed by colour:

White, rich rose red.

I see – am made to see –

The colour extend beyond my eye

To the infra red behind the rose red.


Rose red: red Rosa.

I do not have a cat.

Her last was Mimi.

I do not limp.

I am not forced to exercise

In prison yards alone

And always observed,

A specimen of danger,

Yet I share her place of yearning

For a more natural world.

With her I do not comprehend

Why it is not enough

To walk in awe of life.
By Morven Ash, 2016












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