Indeed, it is a good question to ask. When a persons starts looking into Luxemburg's theories, we must put aside what has been said about her by other (Trotskysts and council communists) : she was wrong but a nice person... she died for her beliefs but the German revolution did not go through because of her... she "supported" the Russian revolution with small fallacious criticism, according to Trotskysts, or she rejected unionism and elections by principles would say council communists...
All this is one-sided. The best way to know her theories is to read her.
I will present a little summary of the most important works below. Before I would advise you to read a small text written by Pelz on Luxemburgism (much better than what there is on Wikipedia) :Another Luxemburgism is possible : Reflections on Rosa and the radical socialist project
The articles discusses Luxemburgist political theories but leaves a bit out the economics (it is a pity). It is still a very good article.
This paper will argue that a new appreciation of Rosa, “another Luxemburgism,”
true to Rosa’s principles and free of Stalinist revisionism, might develop from certain
key aspects of her work. Among the tenants that cry out for inclusion in such a list, I
will focus on five: 1) steadfast belief in democracy; 2) complete faith in the common
people (the masses); 3) dedication to internationalism in word and deed; 4)
commitment to a democratic revolutionary party; and 5) unshakable practice of
humanism. There are, of course, many more areas of her thought which hold vital clues
for those who would follow her in the twenty-first century.
Some comrades of CD (Communsit Democracy) made translations into French and Spanish.
To me the most important works are : Reform or Revolution (1900)
At the end of the 19th century/beginning of the 20th century, a strong current within Marxism, known as "Opportunism", developed specially in the German Social-Democrat Party (SPD). Bernstein could be considered is a major figure of this current.
What did they say? That Marx was wrong when he is said that Capitalism would collapse and that revolution is necessary. But Capitalism can overcome crisis (with cartels, credit/loans, parlementary democracy...). The members of the party should only focussed in elections and mere reforms and one day Capitalism will be transformed into Socialism.
100 years later, one can only laugh.
Luxemburg developped the exact opposite idea. If Capitalism will not fall apart (as happened during WWI, a few years after the book) then Communism is not a necessity, so why bother fighthing Capitalism. She made criticisms of Berstein's arguments.
I can not make you a summary of the entire book (I have not finished it yet, because of lack of time) but one of the key points of the debate is very important to today's world. That is, can Capitalism survive thanks to loans? Berstein said that indeed there could be crisis but as long as we give loans to companies then everything goes back to normal, eventually.
Rosa Luxemburg said the opposite. The loans help Capitalism for all a short time frame. Eventually, it makes the system "addicted" to it and whenever a crisis strikes, loans are not given by credit institutions and the crisis deepens.
Look at what is going on now with the Subprime crisis. The Subprimes were credit given to poor workers so that they get a house. Since these people were poor and that they may not pay back, the banks charged them big interest rates. If these families went broke (as actually happened) the bank could seize their properties and sell them, because if the real estate keeps increasing, they would get their money back (and they did not care if workers went back to having no property).
But the real estate value decrease as the families could not give back what they owed (default of payment). Therefore, many banks made huge losses, needed cahs but stop lending to other banks. Every bank knew that the others had followed the same risky strategy of subprimes. Money stopped being given in form of credits, but it is now that they are needed the most to overcome the crisis.
I am not going further because we are escaping the initial question (the role of loans in Capitalism). But you can see that by giving too much loans to the economy so to increase the consumption, the remedy turned out worst than the initial problem. Today, most major capitalist states have important debts.
Many people have said, as Bernstein did, that Capitalism could survive. Today bourgeois say we would go past the financial/economical crisis using the Central Bank who give money to credit institutions. Luxemburg's book is a study on these questions.
To sum up: socialists must help workers gain social reforms but we must go forward to a Communist system.The Mass Strike (1906)
This a major work in Marxism, even though it is largely left on the side (like Luxemburg's ideas in general). In Rosa Luxemburg analyzes the 1905 Revolution in Russia. She reached some important conclusions.
For years, revolutionaries searched for what was the tool for workers' revolution and many people came up with many alternatives (political party, syndicalist organizing, terrorism...). Luxemburg says that Russian workers invented spontaneously the weapon for their struggle : workers' council (Soviet in Russian). Workers spontaneously and democratically used councils to organize the struggle without there to be the help of a political party like the German SPD or a centralized undemocratic Bolshevik Party.
This book deals with an important question : what is the role of revolutionary parties/groups towards the revolution. Lenin said pretty much that the revolutionary party should substitute itself to the workers' councils because workers would only ask for reforms whereas revolutionary parties would fight for revolution (from the top).
Luxemburgists believe that the party should only advice and help the movement, not rule it. Workers' councils are the only organs of the revolution. After Revolution takes place, these "soviets" will become the revolutionary state as opposed to the Bolshevik idea of State-Communist Party, leaving workers with no power.
Look at today, workers are becoming more organized (even though is yet not enough) without a major party. In 1968 most movements were outside of party controls. In France, the workers went beyond the communist-controlled union and the CP itself. The communist party and the CGT union tried by all means to prevent revolution. Why? Because it could unite with the struggles in "Socialist" block (Czech republic, Hungary). They were integrated into the French capitalist system.
The idea that workers spontaneous movement is far more useful than "bright" leaders is common to Luxemburgism and council communism, as well as the idea that workers, and not the party, should rule. But Luxemburg never said unions and political parties were not needed. Revolutionary workers must organize themselves in political groups or unions as long as it contributes in developing workers' own liberation.The National Question (1909)
Whereas Leninists claim that nationalist movements, even though they are not revolutionaries, should be backed up by revolutionaries. This is to me very stupid. If we look at the 20th centuries wars waged on nationalism (right or left) you realize that it did not helped.
Did the nationalists movements in the Third World help emancipate the workers of these areas? The new leaders of these poor regions remained dependent on the imperialist powers and their allies.
Furthermore, remplacing an imperialist bourgeois cast by a local bourgeois cast does not mean the end of capitalism. If the master change names, slavery stays intact.
Nationalism has always been used for reactionary policies like war or anti-revolutionary movements. We believe people all over the world are equal and that proleterians have no homeland.
This does not mean that we do not stand against minorities' right to have access to their culture. But that is not patriotism/nationalism.Introduction to Political EconomyThe Accumulation of Capital (1913)The Accumulation of capital : An anti-critique (1915)
I will add more promptly...