Kari Polanyi Levitt

Emerita Professor of Economics, McGill University, Montreal – Canada

“From the Great Transformation to the Geat Financialization”, talk at the Rosa-Luxembourg Foundation, Berlin, May 8 2014.

“if I were a believer, I would know that my mother was smiling down upon me here at the podium of the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation. My mother was a student of engineering in Zurich in 1915, when she was befriended by a community of representatives of the Russian Social Democratic Party opposed to the war, including Lenin, his wife Krupskaya and Angelica Balabanoff. Together with delegations from Germany, France, and Britain, as well as other European Labour and Socialist parties, they met to draft a program of action against the war, known as the Zimmerwald Declaration.

As an 18-year-old Hungarian-speaking student unknown to any informant, Ilona was entrusted with delivering this call to action to the leaders of the Social Democratic Party in Vienna. When she presented herself to these gentlemen, they took one look at her and told her to go home, child, just go home. Having failed in this mission, she proceeded to Budapest where she received a warmer welcome from Ervin Szabo – a leading anarchist and head of the public library. With his counsel and advice, she found other young people to participate in a plan to distribute anti-war literature. She wrote the texts, found the printer and together with her comrade Tibor Sugar, they organized the distribution of leaflets in the great Weiss Manfred war factory and the army barracks.

Eventually they were caught, imprisoned and charged with treason – it was not a small matter. The trial of Duczynska, a beautiful young woman from a very good family, and Tibor Sugar, who was briefly her partner in marriage before she met my father, aroused considerable public interest. They were liberated from prison by the 1918 revolution which terminated the war and established the first Hungarian Republic.”

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Rosa Luxembourg lecture

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