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EMMA GONZÁLEZ

We are speaking up for those who don’t have anyone listening to them, for those who can’t talk about it just yet, and for those who will never speak again.

We are grieving, we are furious, and we are using our words fiercely and desperately because that’s the only thing standing between us and this happening again.

Emma González was born on 11 November 1999. On 14 February 2018 a shooter opened fire with a legally-obtained gun at González’s school in Parkland, Florida. Fourteen students and three staff members from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were killed: Alyssa Alhadeff, 14; Scott Beigel, 35; Martin Duque, 14; Nicholas Dworet, 17; Aaron Feis, 37; Jaime Guttenberg, 14; Chris Hixon, 49; Luke Hoyer, 15; Cara Loughran, 14; Gina Montalto, 14; Joaquin Oliver, 17; Alaina Petty, 14; Meadow Pollack, 18; Helena Ramsay, 17; Alex Schachter, 14; Carmen Schentrup, 16 and Peter Wang, 15. Many other people were seriously injured.

At the time of the shooting, González was in her school auditorium. Dozens of students were held there for two hours until police had secured the area.

WHAT EMMA DID NEXT

In response to the shooting, a group of twenty student-survivors formed the political action committee Never Again MSD, with González in their number.

Three days after the shooting, on 17 February 2018, several members of the group gave speeches at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. González gave a speech now known as “We Call BS” which became a viral sensation in its unapologetic disgust for political apathy towards gun control in the US.

On 20 February 2018, the Never Again MSD group organised a march on the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee. González and other students spoke with Florida state legislators, and watched the Florida House vote down the consideration of a bill to ban assault weapons with high-capacity magazines.

González and other students organised the nationwide March for Our Lives protest for 24 March 2018. González was on stage for six minutes and twenty seconds, the length of the Parkland shooting. After a powerful speech, she stood in silence with the crowd for over four minutes.

GET OUT THE VOTE

Gun violence is on the ballot. Our lives are in the hands of the people we elect. Vote in every election like it’s your last, because it very well could be.

In the months following the shooting and in the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections, the students involved in Never Again MSD spent several months touring the US with a simple message: “vote for our lives.”

By increasing youth participation, they argued, young people could vote for politicians with tougher stances on gun control, and vote out those who were supported by the NRA and opposed gun control legislation.

González was a frequent speaker at these events, remarking that voting is “your chance to be a hero for yourself and everyone you love.”

The 2018 midterm elections saw a 50% increase in the participation of voters aged between 18 and 29. This was the highest youth participation out of the previous seven midterm elections.

IF IT WEREN’T FOR YOU MEDDLING KIDS

In March 2018, the Florida Legislature passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. The Act raised the minimum age for buying firearms to 21, established waiting periods and background checks and barred potentially violent people from possessing guns. This was the first time in 30 years that a Florida legislature had passed any restrictions on gun ownership.

González’s determination in the face of personal tragedy is a lesson in the conversion of sorrow into action. She stands as a counter proof to the lazy argument that young people are apathetic to the political process. Her activism is proof of the fact that a group of committed individuals, regardless of their age, have the capacity to mobilise an entire movement and effect genuine change.

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COMMITTEE OF MPS: CURRENT SYSTEM OF IMMIGRATION DETENTION NEEDS URGENT REFORM

In a new report the Joint Committee on Human Rights has described the current immigration detention system as “unfair” and in need of reform.

WHAT IS THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS?

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (“JCHR”) is a cross-party mix of members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The current chair is the Labour MP Harriet Harman.

The JCHR considers matters relating to human rights in the UK. The JCHR’s work includes scrutinising every law proposed by the government for its compatibility with human rights and assessing the government’s response to court judgments concerning human rights. The JCHR also conducts its own inquiries, like this one (the “Report”).

WHAT IS THE CURRENT IMMIGRATION DETENTION SYSTEM LIKE?

In the UK, Home Office immigration officers may detain anyone subject to immigration control. The decision to detain is made by one immigration officer, and is not automatically subject to independent review. There is no time limit on the length of immigration detention, and detainees have no idea how long their detention will last upon entering the system.

The UK has eight detention centres and two “short-term holding facilities” where detainees can stay for up to a week. One of the centres is run by Her Majesty’s Prison Service with the rest contracted out to G4S, Mitie, Serco and the GEO Group.

Conditions within detention centres vary. The Report describes a “lack of certainty and hope” in “prison-like conditions”, with inadequate safeguarding of vulnerable people. A 2017 investigation by the BBC’s Panorama programme revealed centre staff “mocking, abusing and assaulting” detainees. Detainees also face difficulties in accessing legal advice and thus challenging their detention.

According to Home Office figures, it costs £85.97 per day to keep an individual in detention. The annual detention costs for the year ending March 2018 were £108 million. This is not inclusive of administrative costs or the cost of compensation for unlawful detention paid by the government, which was in excess of £3 million in the financial year 2016 – 2017.

On average 27,000 people enter the immigration detention estate each year. In the third quarter of 2018, 5,949 individuals left detention. Of these, 50 had spent over a year in detention.

Number of daysNumber of people%
7 days or less2,34639%
8 to 14 days89515%
15 to 28 days97116%
29 days to less than 2 months77113%
2 months to less than 4 months5119%
4 months to less than 6 months2264%
6 months to less than 12 months1793%
12 months or more501%
Total leaving detention5,949100%

WHAT DOES THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS RECOMMEND?

The Report makes five key proposals:

INDEPENDENT DECISION MAKING

Reviews of detention are currently undertaken by the Home Office, the same department that makes the initial decision to detain, and which progresses removals and deportation. This is akin to the police conducting criminal trials, appeals and the administration of sentencing. The Report recommends that the Home Office should conduct a pilot where an independent body must give prior authorisation for planned detentions.

The current lack of rigour in detention decisions is evidenced by the amounts spent on compensation for wrongful detentions and the series of mistakes accepted by the Home Office in detention cases.

Joint Committee on Human Rights, Immigration Detention (Committee Report, HC 1484, 2019) 3.

Moreover, the Report is adamant that immigration detainees should not have fewer safeguards than those applicable in the criminal justice system. The decision on whether to continue detention should be made by an independent judge and should be required for any detention beyond 72 hours.

A TIME LIMIT ON DETENTION

The UK is the only country in Europe that does not impose time limits on immigration detention. The Report recommends a time limit of 28 days, to be extended by up to a further 28 days in exceptional cases by application to an independent judge.

ACCESS TO LEGAL ADVICE

Immigration detainees should have better and more consistent access to legal advice to challenge their detention.

Moreover, the Report states that there is an “urgent need” for immigration legislation to be reviewed as it is too complex. The JCHR recommends that the Law Commission should be tasked with simplifying and codifying the law on immigration.

VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS

The Report recommends that more be done to identify vulnerable detainees and treat them appropriately.

DETENTION CONDITIONS

The Report recommends that the Home Office should give serious consideration to improving its oversight and assurance mechanisms to ensure that any ill-treatment or abuse is found out immediately and addressed. Additionally, the Report states that more needs to be done to make detention centres less prison-like.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

Once a JCHR report is published the government normally makes a response, either by publishing the report itself as a Command Paper or by sending a memorandum to the JCHR. It is the government’s policy to reply within two months of the publication of a report where possible.

Government-commissioned reviews have been consistently scathing of immigration detention, the first of which concluded that “detention in and of itself undermines welfare and contributes to vulnerability.” The Report is a long overdue cross-bench condemnation of the barbaric practice. Hopefully the Report will provide the impetus required for MPs to remedy the UK’s status as an outlier in this field.

If you would like to add your voice to the call for an end to indefinite detention, here’s a petition for you to sign: https://liberty.e-activist.com/page/15505/petition/1?ea.tracking.id=IDPCampaignPage

SUPREME COURT RULES CRIMINAL RECORDS DISCLOSURE RULES INCOMPATIBLE WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

On 30 January 2019 the Supreme Court gave judgment in R (on the application of P) v Secretary of State for the Home Department and others. This was an appeal by the Home Office against Court of Appeal decisions declaring the statutory schemes for the disclosure of criminal records incompatible with human rights.

BACKGROUND

The respondents to the appeals had all been convicted, or received cautions or reprimands, for relatively minor offences. For example, in 1999 respondent P had received a caution for the theft of a sandwich. In the same year, she received conditional discharges for the theft of a book worth 99p and for failure to surrender to the bail granted to her after her arrest for that offence. At the time, P was homeless and suffering from undiagnosed schizophrenia.

In each case the relevant convictions and cautions were “spent” under the statutory schemes. This means that the offences would not normally have to be revealed under standard employment checks.

However, the respondents were required to disclose their offences under exceptions to the statutory schemes. These exceptions include where an offence results in a custodial sentence, and where someone has more than one conviction. The respondents believed the required disclosures had prejudiced their ability to find work.

In each case, the respondents challenged the statutory schemes as being incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights 1950 (“ECHR”), protecting the right to respect for private and family life.

JUDGMENT

The Supreme Court held that Article 8 of the ECHR was engaged. In order to be compliant with the ECHR, the statutory schemes had to pass two tests: firstly, they had to be “in accordance with the law” (the “legality test”) and secondly, the current boundaries of the schemes had to be acceptable (the “proportionality test”).

As the statutory schemes are highly prescriptive, mandatory and leave no room for discretion, it could not be said that they are not in accordance with the law. They are operated in a way that is clear and defined, and thus pass the legality test.

However, the Court decided that two elements of the existing statutory schemes are disproportionate. Firstly, the requirement for the disclosure of multiple convictions does not achieve its purpose of indicating propensity, as it applies irrespective of the nature, similarity, number or time intervals of offences. Secondly, the schemes fail to distinguish between warnings and reprimands issued to young offenders, which is incompatible with the aim of rehabilitation after mistakes made in childhood. The boundaries of these elements of the statutory schemes are thus incompatible with the respondents’ Article 8 rights.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

Christopher Stacey is the co-director of Unlock, a charity that intervened in the case. He described the judgment as “a crucial step towards achieving a fair and proportionate filtering system that takes a more calibrated and targeted approach towards disclosing criminal records.”

However, the judgment does not end the current statutory schemes. If a court finds UK legislation incompatible with human rights, it is up to parliament to decide whether to amend it. The statutory schemes will thus remain in place for the moment, meaning that the respondents’ situations will not change immediately. Upon hearing the judgment P said:

I am glad that this case is over, but will only celebrate when the government finally changes the law and enables me to move on, to work and finally make plans for my future.

SOPHIA DULEEP SINGH

If I am not a fit person for the purpose of representation, why am I a fit person for the purpose of taxation?

COULD ANYTHING BE DONE TO STOP HER?

Princess Sophia Alexandrovna Duleep Singh was born in 1876 in Belgravia. Although in her early life she was regarded as fragile and shy she became a vocal proponent of the Indian independence movement and a prominent member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (“WSPU”), the most radical arm of the movement for women’s suffrage.

Sophia’s title stemmed from her grandfather, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the founder and leader of the Sikh Empire that ruled much of northwest India in the early half of the 1800s. Although the Sikh Empire was assimilated through conquest and and annexation, Ranjit Singh’s respect for religious diversity and the respect he ordered his soldiers to show civilians engendered goodwill and reverence amongst the Sikh Empire’s citizens.

Ranjit Singh died in 1839. His following three successors were assassinated, and his youngest child, and Sophia’s father, Duleep Singh, became Maharaja at the age of five in 1843, with his mother, Maharani Jind Kaur, acting as regent.

In 1849, after the close of the Second Anglo-Sikh War between the Sikh Empire and the British East India Company, the young Maharaja was deposed. In 1854 Duleep Singh was sent into exile in Britain, becoming a favourite of Queen Victoria’s, who granted him an income from which he purchased Elveden estate in Suffolk.

In 1864, the Maharaja married Bamba Müller, the daughter of a German merchant banker and a slave of Abyssinian descent named Sofia. The couple set up home in the Elveden estate, surrounded by a menagerie of exotic animals. By the time Sophia was born in 1876, the couple had two boys, Victor and Frederick, and two girls, Bamba and Catherine. Queen Victoria was made Sophia’s godmother, as well as her brother Victor’s. Due to the age gap between them and their elder siblings, she and her younger brother Albert, known as Eddie, were doted upon by the rest of the family.

Duleep Singh became increasingly disillusioned with the British Empire that had taken his throne and, in 1886, he decided to take the family back to India where they would re-convert to Sikhism. However, the British government would not allow their entry to India over concerns that their presence would rile up anti-colonial sentiment. Sophia, her mother and her siblings returned to England where they were maintained by Queen Victoria.

In 1887, Sophia’s mother died after a short period of illness. She was followed by Sophia’s younger and adored brother Eddie in 1893. Sophia’s father died just months later alone in a hotel room in Paris, at which time the British government sold on the Elveden estate. In just a matter of years, Sophia had lost her parents, her brother, her home and most of her wealth. While her surviving brothers had the means and freedom to support themselves, the three sisters were completely dependent upon the Queen.

In 1893, Sophia was granted a grace and favour apartment in London by Queen Victoria. She was viewed by those around her as fragile and shy, and uncomfortable with the attention concomitant with being a princess.

The three sisters were formally debuted by the Queen in 1895. However, the sisters had not forgotten their father’s legacy of disillusionment with the British Empire. In 1903, the three women travelled to India covertly, using pseudonyms and travelling separately so as not to draw attention to themselves, wary of the British government’s attempts to prevent their passage. Although they travelled together initially, Sophia later struck out without her two sisters on a horseback tour.

On her journey back to England Sophia witnessed the plight of the Lascars, Indian labourers and sailors, who were often hired out of poverty, forced to work in dangerous and degrading conditions, and abandoned in foreign ports with no money or even an understanding of the local language. When Sophia returned home she began using her money and social connections to advocate for improved conditions for the Lascars.

In 1906, Sophia returned to India to visit her sister Bamba. Bamba had made connections within the Indian independence movement, and introduced Sophia to them. Sophia expressed sympathy for the cause of the freedom fighters she met, who included Mahatma Gandhi. The imprisonment by the British of another freedom fighter, Lala Lajpat Rai, on charges of sedition coloured Sophia’s view of the British Empire for the rest of her life.

In 1909 Sophia joined the WSPU, known as the Suffragettes, a term coined by the Daily Mail but embraced by the movement. Sophia began her work by raising funds, but then began to attend meetings and was soon a visible figure within the WSPU. While Sophia was far from the only woman of colour within the Suffragette movement, her title and her social standing meant she was propelled into the movement’s limelight. As with many political movements, the suffrage movement had a complicated relationship with race – although it seems that women of colour were not actively discouraged from joining the movement, nor does there seem to have been an emphasis on including a diverse range of voices.

This is mirrored to some extent in the movement’s relationship with class. While the movement’s largely white, educated and middle class leaders received belated recognition, the contribution of thousands of working class women has often been forgotten. Unlike some of her Suffragette contemporaries, notably Christabel Pankhurst, Sophia was a passionate supporter of universal women’s suffrage, rather than a more limited suffrage for women with property.

Sophia also joined the Women’s Tax Resistance League (“WTRL”), refusing to pay the licence fees required for her dogs, carriage and staff. In order to raise funds for the WTRL, Sophia authorised an auction of her belongings.

In 1911, Sophia was fined for failure to pay licence fees. She protested that she should not have to pay the licence fees, nor the associated court fees, without the right to vote. The fine was upheld. That July a bailiff was sent to Sophia’s house, and a diamond ring was seized for auction. On the day of the auction a group of Suffragettes commandeered the seats of the auction house, refusing to bid on the ring until the opening bid was reduced to £10, when artist Louise Jopling Rowe bought it, immediately handing it to Sophia who was also in attendance.

After a Bill granting partial suffrage to women was thwarted by the Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith, a group of the most prominent members of the Suffragette movement marched to Parliament, with Sophia amongst them. A larger contingent of 300 Suffragettes followed, but was met by lines of police and crowds of men outside the Houses of Parliament. The women were bombarded with assaults for the next six hours. The violence led to the death of two Suffragettes. Police arrested 4 men and 115 women, Sophia amongst them, although all charges were later dropped. This protest became known as Black Friday.

At the protest, Sophia watched in horror as she saw another woman thrown to the ground repeatedly by the same police officer, and shoved her way through the crowd to stand between them. After making sure the woman was not seriously injured, Sophia followed the officer, berating him for his behaviour and noting his badge number. She later wrote to the Home Secretary, a young Winston Churchill, to complain of the police brutality shown at the protest. Her note was passed on to the Police Commissioner who ultimately ruled that the officer had done nothing wrong. Sophia disputed the finding, and continued to write letters long after Churchill placed a note on her file ordering that she not be answered further.

In 1911, King George V was scheduled to speak in Parliament. As part of a planned protest, Sophia threw herself onto the Prime Minister’s car as it came out of Downing Street, brandishing a banner emblazoned with the words “Give women the vote!”, pulled from her fur muff.

The WSPU’s tactics became increasingly radical, escalating to the breaking of windows and the planting of small, homemade bombs in postboxes. Other suffrage groups distanced themselves from the WSPU, but the once timid Sophia was in full throated support, speaking at events and meetings to encourage women to join the fight. Her status in society left the authorities reluctant to arrest her, while they became increasingly impatient with her behaviour. Upon seeing her picture in the Suffragette, the former MP Sir William Coddington was reported to have asked the Secretary of State for India, Lord Crewe, if “anything could be done to stop her”.

In 1915, after the WSPU suspended their militant activities at the outbreak of World War I, Sophia began working as a Red Cross nurse, tending to wounded Indian soldiers who had been evacuated from the Western Front. At the same time, she raised funds to support the Indian soldiers and Lascars working in the British fleets. This culminated in a fundraiser in 1918, which raised enough money for 50,000 homes for Indian soldiers.

The Representation of the People Act 1918 extended the right to vote to men aged 21 and over, whether or not they owned property, and to women aged 30 who met a property qualification. After this limited victory for women’s suffrage, Sophia joined the Suffragette Fellowship and remained a member until her death.

In 1924 Sophia visited India again, where she and her sister Bamba were mobbed by crowds still enthralled to her grandfather’s legacy. Throughout the trip Sophia wore a badge with the words “Votes for Women!”, boosting the cause for women’s suffrage in India.

It was not until the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928 that women gained electoral equality in Britain. The 1928 Act gave the vote to women and men at age 21 regardless of any property qualification, which added another five million people to the electorate.

Sophia died in her sleep in 1948, aged 71. Her final wish was to be cremated according to Sikh rites, with her ashes scattered in India. However, the India that became her final resting place was marred by religious violence, with the religious unity her grandfather sought to foster a distant memory. In new will, Sophia left money to three girls’ schools – one Sikh, one Muslim and one Hindu – striving for equality in death as in life.

THE INDESTRUCTIBLE SOPHIA

In the 1934 edition of Who’s Who, Sophia described her life’s purpose as “the advancement of women”. Part of Sophia’s legacy lies in the inclusivity of this statement, as her concern was for all women, regardless of race, religion or class.

However, Sophia’s continuing relevance is perhaps best reflected in the breadth of her activism. Her fundraising for Indian Lascars and soldiers, her support for the Indian independence movement and her desire to promote religious diversity should be remembered alongside her contribution to the campaign for women’s suffrage as a reminder of the connections between different struggles and the necessity of striving for equality on all fronts.

DATABASE OF ENGLAND’S SECRET JUDGMENTS OPENED

Judgments issued in England and Wales after “closed material procedures” (“CMP”) are now to be made part of a database, according to a Practice Direction issued by the Lord Chief Justice and the Senior President of Tribunals. Prior to this Practice Direction such judgments were held by a variety of courts, tribunals and government agencies.

A single printed copy and an electronic copy of each closed judgment must be lodged with the Royal Courts of Justice Senior Information Officer within 14 days of being handed down, for “consideration for inclusion” in the database, to be known by the disturbing and poetic title “the library of closed judgments”. The database will also include secret judgments from the last five years, as well as certain older judgments.

The printed and electronic judgments will be maintained under the secure handling provisions set down in unpublished 2017 guidance. Not all judgments will be retained, and some will be “disposed of securely”. The decision making process by which judgments are retained or destroyed is not public knowledge.

The database will be accessible by senior judges and “special advocates” with security clearance.

WHAT ARE CLOSED MATERIAL PROCEDURES, AND WHO ARE SPECIAL ADVOCATES?

CMP allow for all or part of a claim to be heard in closed proceedings in order for the judge to consider material which, if disclosed publicly, would risk harming national security.

These hearings exclude the claimant, who is represented by a government-approved “special advocate” who is unable to communicate the content of any sensitive material to her client.

This has, for example, allowed the government to avoid disclosing evidence to claimants who allege that they are survivors of government-sanctioned illegal rendition to torture-practicing states. This is despite the fact that the court could rely on that evidence in the determination of the facts and outcome of their claim (see, for example, Belhaj and Boudchar v Director of Public Prosecutions (Foreign Secretary intervening) 2017).

A SHORT HISTORY OF CLOSED MATERIAL PROCEDURES

The introduction of CMP followed the European Court of Human Rights’ 1996 decision in Chahal v United Kingdom. The Court held that a previous procedure employed in cases involving national security matters unlawfully violated the rights of the claimant. However, the Court suggested a CMP-like Canadian procedure as a compromise. The government ran with this suggestion, introducing the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997 which allowed for CMP to be used in certain immigration appeals.

Since then, the use of CMP has proliferated in a number of different areas of law, including financial regulation (Bank Mellat v HM Treasury 2014), employment law (Kiani v Secretary of State for the Home Department 2016) and preventive detention (A v Secretary of State for the Home Department 2004). There is even some evidence of leakage of the procedure into criminal law, with entire trials being held in private, away from public scrutiny (Guardian News and Media Ltd v R & Erol Incedal 2016).

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH CLOSED MATERIAL PROCEDURES?

CMP mark a major divergence from the principles of fairness and transparency that are foundational to our justice system. Not only do they challenge individualistic notions of fair trials, but they are also contrary to common law values of open justice, which include public access to the courts and the freedom of the media to scrutinise the judicial process.

Nonetheless, the use of CMP has been sanctioned by the European Court of Human Rights (see, for example, A v UK 2009), so long as the difficulties caused to the applicant by the use of CMP are counterbalanced in such a way as to enable the applicant to “effectively challenge” the allegations against her.

IS THE DATABASE A GOOD THING?

Relatively speaking, the introduction of the database will be of benefit to the justice system, alleviating to some extent the problem secret advocates have faced of developing lines of argument, only to find upon their delivery in court that such arguments have been decided upon in previous CMP cases. With access to the database, secret advocates will now know the rationale of previous judgments, enabling them to more effectively defend the rights of their clients.

However, the database is incapable of addressing the more fundamental problems of the CMP model, in its erosion of our procedural rights and the ability of the public to oversee the administration of justice. In its weakening of our institutions of justice, CMP should not only concern those involved in cases where sensitive evidence is admitted but society as a whole.

ROSA LUXEMBURG

Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters. The essence of political freedom depends not on the fanatics of ‘justice’, but rather on all the invigorating, beneficial, and detergent effects of dissenters. If ‘freedom’ becomes ‘privilege’, the workings of political freedom are broken.

I WAS, I AM, I SHALL BE!

Rosa Luxemburg was born in Russian-controlled Poland in 1871. In her short life, she was, amongst other things, an anti-war activist, a revolutionary, a teacher of economics and a political theoretician.

After becoming involved in the Polish anti-autocracy movement whilst still in high school, Luxemburg emigrated to Switzerland in 1889 to avoid the threat of prison. In Zürich she studied law and political economy, and in 1898 became a rare creature for the time: a woman with a doctorate.

During her studies, she became involved in the international socialist movement. With others, she formed the Polish Social Democratic Party, which was to become the nucleus of the future Polish Communist Party.

While she supported the anti-autocracy movement, the cure she advocated was not nationalism, which she viewed as a regressive pet project of the bourgeoisie. Instead, she stressed the importance of socialist internationalism.

After participating in struggles related to the Russian Revolution in Warsaw, Luxemburg was incarcerated. Her imprisonment was a time of contemplation for Luxemburg, from which emerged her theory of revolutionary mass action outlined in The Mass Strike, the Political Party, and the Trade Unions (1906), which advocated the mass strike as the most important tool in overthrowing capitalist structures.

Following her release from prison, Luxemburg taught at the Social Democratic Party school and wrote her seminal work, The Accumulation of Capital (1913).

When World War I broke out, Luxemburg immediately opposed it, unlike the SDP. Alongside other revolutionaries she formed the Spartacus League in response, so-named after a Roman-opposing liberator of slaves. The League attempted to organise a general strike against the war-effort, for which Luxemburg was imprisoned for a further two and a half years.

Luxemburg wrote prolifically whilst imprisoned, with friends smuggling out her writings for distribution. Amongst these was Luxemburg’s 1916 pamphlet The Crisis in the German Social Democracy which underpinned the League’s philosophy, advocating the overthrow of the bourgeois regime and the formation of an international order which could prevent a renewed outbreak of hopeless warfare.

After her release from prison Luxemburg set to work reorganising the League and founding The Red Flag newspaper, which demanded amnesty for all political prisoners and the abolition of capital punishment.

In late December 1918, Luxemburg co-founded the German Communist Party. She was conscious, however, of remaining separate from the Russian Bolsheviks as she disagreed with their dictatorial and terrorist methods. In distinction, Luxemburg was committed to democracy for the proletariat masses.

In the winter of 1918/19, Luxemburg was involved in a communist uprising known as the Spartacus Revolt. On 15 January 1919, she was arrested, tortured and murdered for her involvement in its organisation by the Freikorps, a paramilitary group.

On the eve of her death, Luxemburg remained committed to her cause, writing:

[A] new leadership can and must be created by the masses and from the masses… Tomorrow the revolution will “rise up again, clashing its weapons,” and to your horror it will proclaim with trumpets blazing: I was, I am, I shall be!

THE CONTINUING RELEVANCE OF RED ROSA

We can take inspiration from Luxemburg’s constant and unerring faith in the necessity of a humanist socialism. Whilst committed to the distribution of power amongst the masses, she refused to agree with the prevailing Bolshevik ideology that this must be at the expense of their civil rights:

Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element.

Although she was critical of liberal feminism, Luxemburg was undoubtedly a pioneering feminist martyr who was unafraid to disagree with the most powerful men in the world, including Vladimir Lenin. Her swan song should be taken up by all activists and movements for change: I was, I am, I shall be!