Freiheit ist immer die Freiheit der Andersdenkenden. An was aber denken die anderen? Und wie frei denken sie?
Looking for a means to procrastinate this morning, I searched my favourite radio programme (In our Time BBC Radio 4) for a new podcast to listen to and stumbled across one on Rosa Luxemburg. As mentioned before, I was raised in a slightly left-ish household and was fed socialist thoughts and history from a very early age.
My interest in Rosa Luxemburg was sparked by an amazing book by one of my favourite authors, Klaus Kordon’s Die roten Matrosen. The book tells you the story of the political situation in Germany at the end of the Great War, the socialist movement under Liebknecht and Luxemburg, the Kiel mutiny and the beginning of the Weimar Republic through the eyes of a teenage boy, Helle. It is the first book of a trilogy that covers the history of Berlin from WWI to the end of WWII. I highly recommend Klaus Kordon but unfortunately you need to be able to read German. His books are the reason I studied History and my all-time favourite is 1848. His Erich Kästner biography is on my reading list, so I will try to do a review on this one soon (I have to do this soon! Can there be anything better than a great author telling the story of a great author? I don’t think so!).
So, let’s go back to Rosa Luxemburg’s quote (a Luxemburg biography is on my reading list as well, so I will go into detail on her fascinating life when I do my review on that book – for the time being it has to suffice that she was an inspiring, strong and highly intelligent woman who was brutally murdered for her involvement in politics).
The most famous translation of the first bit of this quote, which I have as a poster hanging on my office wall and am considering getting as a tattoo as it has been one of my favourites since 2001 (so for more than half my life), is “Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters”. Although this is a correct translation of the initial snippet and conveys the meaning properly, it does not translate the following paronomasia. Anders in German can mean different or other, Andersdenkende are those who think differently (non-conformist thinkers or dissenters). In the next sentence she asks “But what are the others (dissenters) thinking of?”, so she easily exchanges the meaning of anders from dissenters (those who think differently) to the others – as you can see the beauty of the quote is already lost in translation. Her last question comes back to the freedom that she defines as the freedom of the dissenters, “How free(ly – it should be an adverb, shouldn’t it?) are they thinking?”. A nicer translation of this question could be “How free is their thinking?”.
A full translation lacking the pun would be:
Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters.
But what are the dissenters thinking of?
And how free is their thinking?
If you are interested in Rosa Luxemburg’s life and cannot wait for my review on Max Gallo’s biography, here are some useful links:
In Our Time Podcast, you can download it everywhere. I listened to them when I was living outside the UK, so everyone should be able to listen to it http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08lfc77 I highly recommend listening to some other IOT podcasts.
History of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (German) https://www.rosalux.de/themen/geschichte/
Rosa Luxdemburg Internet Archive https://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/
Pic stolen here which also is a nice article (German) about her life.
More on Klaus Kordon in German here