George Eaton in New Statesman:
On the evening of 28 October, as they absorbed the election of far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, British leftists declared “socialism or barbarism”. The slogan was assumed by some to be a Corbynite coinage. But it was first popularised more than a century ago in war-ravaged Europe.
In 1915, writing under the pseudonym Junius to evade prosecution, German Marxist leader Rosa Luxemburg warned: “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.”
To Luxemburg’s dismay, rather than uniting in opposition to the First World War, Europe’s left-wing parties rallied behind their national governments. “Workers of the world unite in peacetime – but in war slit one another’s throats,” she observed acidly.
Luxemburg and co-leader Karl Liebknecht responded in 1916 by founding the revolutionary Spartacist League (named after Spartacus, the leader of the largest Roman slave rebellion), a breakaway from Germany’s Social Democratic Party.