Red Rosa: An Interview with Kate Evans
New Jersey Revolutionary Radio Welcomes Kate Evans!
Welcome one and all, to this episode of Wine, Women, and Revolution! We’re coming at you from New Jersey Revolutionary Radio, New Jersey’s one and only socialist podcast. As you know, we are an anti-capitalist, socialist podcast. Rosa Luxemburg was one of the first revolutionary scholars that our host, Heather, truly found herself resonating in a unique way.
Today, we are excited to welcome our guest star, graphic novelist Kate Evans, who was recently commissioned to create a graphic novel about Rosa Luxemburg. Evans writes and illustrates novels concerning topics ranging from childbirth to climate change to revolutionary politics. Heather’s first question for Kate is about what inspired her to start this novel.
A Real-Life Superhero
Actually, as Kate tells, she was commissioned! She received an email whilst in the midst of working on a different project. She recognized the name Rosa Luxemburg as “one of those groovy women that people bang on about, a bit like Emma Goldman, [so] I’m sure she’s really cool”, so she did some research and discovered that she “totally lucked out.” Rosa, as Kate discovered, is quite an interesting figure; among other achievements, she had a compelling life in which she made amazing contributions to political thought.
In fact, Rosa Luxemburg makes a better superhero than almost any cartoon superhero out there. Everything that she did, all her braveness and openness – she was that fearless and inspirational in real life, not just as a character, which is really incredible.
Kate’s novel includes essential elements of socialist theory that Rosa emphasized in her works. The book is grounded in an explanation of Marxism. This, as Kate tells, is a necessity because everything that Rosa did was minded towards overthrowing capitalism. Therefore, one of the first things the novel does is explain some of the basic problems with capitalism.
“Tomorrow the Revolution Will Rise Up Again”
Another main element of the book is that it summarizes many of Rosa’s main contributions to society. She graduated with a doctorate law degree with honors. She had incredible political foresight – she predicted many of the downfalls of harmful processes such as the global military-industrial complex, colonialism, globalization, the interconnectedness of capitalism with ecological destruction and with colonial genocide. That accuracy is a large part of what has made her work stay relevant to this day and age where, indeed, the global military-industrial complex is on the rise.
Rosa Luxemburg popularized the term “socialism or barbarism,” which is still incredibly relevant in today’s Trumpian dystopia, where we have a chance to rally behind socialism or barbarism. As people living in society, many of us are, understandably, scared about the direction in which politics are moving. It can help to remember that we are not the only ones who have felt afraid.
Perhaps Rosa’s most well-known epitaph, shared with us by Kate, written as soldiers were getting ready to drag her off to kill her, is this: “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!” Even as she was being dragged off to be murdered, Rosa had the revolution on her mind. She spoke with a directness and eloquence that captured intense admiration from many.
Good Old Rosa and Creepy Uncle Marx
Another famous quote of Dr. Luxemburg’s is this: “Being human means throwing your whole life on the scales of destiny when need be, all the while rejoicing in every sunny day and every beautiful cloud.” Rosa’s profound writing style is part of why people are able to resonate with her and identify with Rosa in a special way. Heather and Kate both agree on the metaphor of Rosa as a pleasant friend to talk to, rather than a creepy uncle like Karl Marx. Although Marx’ work undoubtedly changed the world forever, none of his writings make him come off as personable, the way Rosa Luxemburg’s do.
The Life of Doctor Rosa Luxemburg
Everyone knows how impactful and brilliant Rosa was, but what about her life? She left czarist Poland, where it was illegal to be socialist. Rosa grew up seeing people be executed and murdered for her political beliefs. Probably in part due to this, she embraced the idea that dying for one’s ideas is part of the cause. She was a fairly recognizable Jewish girl, so she moved out of Poland in exile to Switzerland. There, she got her degree and met her lover, who helped support her endeavors financially. Letters between the two, Kate said, were very amusing to read — a mixture of lovey-doveyness and political nerdiness.
In Kate’s graphic novels, she also wove in stories about Rosa’s involvement in the politics of Germany and Russia, which both involved revolutions. After graduating, Rosa lived and worked in Germany, which was the world capital of socialism at the time. Rosa’s activism in Germany came to a head at around the time that the first world war broke out. Kate reports that Dr. Luxemburg vehemently opposed the war, even at a time when many of those around her were selling out.
To find out even more about Rosa, her imprisonment during the war, and the post-war German revolution, it is advised that you go buy Kate’s book through her website, cartoonkate.co.uk. (You can also buy a variety of other publications, like her anti-princess children’s book, inspired by her daughter!)
The Academic Comic Book
Kate published her book in 2015 through Verso, which is a major radical, anti-capitalist publishing house. This is ideal for Kate because she knows that the profits from her novel are only being used for purposes that align with her values. The book contains a lot of Rosa’s direct quotes. The novel could be accurately described as a fun, movie-like representation of Rosa’s life, but also a publication containing a wealth of political information. This all comes together in an “academic comic book”, which is a relatively new genre. Kate’s novel has been published in well over a dozen languages, including Korean, Argentinian, Slovenian, and of course, German. If Kate hopes for one thing to come out of her book, it is to encourage people to go directly to her writings themselves.
To finish off the podcast, Kate Evans shares one last Rosa Laxumburg quote that she wrote while she was imprisoned indefinitely during the first world war: “Don’t forget, as busy as you may be, to quickly raise your head and cast a glance at those great silver clouds and that silent blue ocean in which they are swimming…take notice of the resplendence and glory that overlie this day…because this day will never, ever come again! This day is a gift to you like a rose in full bloom, lying at your feet, waiting for you to pick it up and press it to your lips.”
As Always, Thank you!
To our readers and listeners, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate you more than you can know. As mentioned earlier, mainstream media do not cover many activist issues, so we do it because it is incredibly important. We are here to be a voice for the underserved and underrepresented. Not that corporations are lining up to give us their money, but if they were, we would not take it. We depend only on donations from people like you, so we appreciate anything you can give, no matter how small the amount. The future is yours to create, go out there and create it!