In 1915, Rosa Luxemburg wrote The Crisis of Social Democracy while in jail for her anti-war activism. In it, she criticised the leaders of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) for betraying working-class internationalism with their support for the First World War. The pamphlet was smuggled out in April that year and published a year later. Distributed illegally under the pseudonym Junius, it’s commonly known as the Junius pamphlet.
From early in her political career, Rosa Luxemburg was concerned with the struggle against imperialism and war. Her analysis and the tactics she advocated weren’t all correct, but she was always on the side of the working class and its independent organisation, and of the oppressed. That was true in her approach to the “national question”, her responses to wars and her theory of imperialism.
The outbreak of World War I ushered in a new age of barbarism in Europe. It also triggered the collapse of the Second International, the international league of socialist parties that purported to be staunch opponents of war, but which lined up behind their own ruling classes when it broke out. Lenin’s pamphlet Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, published in the middle of the horror and brutality of the Great War, aimed to answer two questions: why this imperialist war, and why the collapse of the Second International?