July 30, 2018

Rosa Luxemburg’s Socialist Feminism

Drucilla Cornell

Drucilla Cornell is a US professor of law, women’s studies and political science. Prior to her university career, she worked as a trade unionist for United Auto Workers, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America and the International Union of Electrical Workers and in California, New Jersey and New York.

In this essay, Drucilla Cornell explores the relevance of Rosa Luxemburg’s socialist feminism today. Originally conceived as a keynote address at the annual conference of the International Rosa Luxemburg Society in Chicago, Cornell’s text shows that Luxemburg’s approach to feminist ideas was not simply about “gender trouble” or contributing to gender discomfort. Rather, Luxemburg situated gender inequalities in a larger context of imperial and colonial exploitation. Thus, decades before the concept of intersectionality first entered feminist theory, she recognised that different forms of exploitation-namely, on the basis of gender, “race” or class-are inextricably linked. In this text, Cornell urges readers to take Rosa Luxemburg’s feminism seriously, which also means that emancipation and liberation can only be achieved if we commit to a new human praxis-a praxis that is both gentle and principled.