[PW] ? Rosa Luxemburg Quote (Quotation Query #730)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Wed Jun 3 10:14:32 PDT 2015

Barry Popik has an entry with a 2007 citation for the phrase in English.

Entry from October 20, 2013
"Those who do not move do not notice their chains"

Here is a snippet match in Google Books that is tagged with the year 2006.

Year: 2006
Title: Report of Congress
Author: Trades Union Congress
(Google Books snippet; data must be verified)

[Begin extracted text]
Workers only feel the full force of anti-union law when they
themselves take action, when they find their hands tied behind their
backs, as Rosa Luxembourg observed, "Those who do not move do not
notice their chains." So, despite the ...
[End extracted text]

There is a discussion of the quotation at the following link:


One reply on the thread asserts the quote appeared on a banner during
a protest in Germany in 1989.

[Begin excerpt]
I asked the Marxist Internet Archive as suggested, and quickly
received the following reply, which seems to find the quote to be

“The German version of this (alleged) quote is “Wer sich nicht bewegt,
spürt seine Fesseln nicht.” It has been attributed to Rosa Luxemburg
by many people and she did say some things that have a similar meaning
but none of the discussions I’ve read have been able to quote where it
came from. While it may appear in one of her letters (most of them
aren’t online yet), the earliest definite reference to this statement
seems to be a banner on an opposition demonstration in the GDR on 17
January 1989 (i.e. on the 70th anniversary of her murder)!
[End excerpt]

Here are two raw matches in Google Books that are tagged with the year
1982. I cannot read German so I am using Google Translate.

The two matching phrases were:

Wer sich nicht bewegt, der spürt die Fesseln nicht.
Wer sich nicht bewegt, spürt die Fesseln nicht.

Below I will strip out some of the special characters which email
cannot handle properly.

Wer sich nicht bewegt, der spurt die Fesseln nicht.

Title: Protokoll Gewerkschaft Textil-Bekleidung: 14. Ordentlicher
Gewerkschaftstag in Mainz Rheingoldhalle, 17. Okt. bis 22. Okt. 1982

Author: Gewerkschaft Textil-Bekleidung. Hauptvorstand
Publisher: Gewerkschaft Textil-Bekleidung, Hauptvorstand, 1982
(Google Books snippet; data may be inaccurate and must be verified)

[Begin extracted text]
Und allen, die die gewerkschaftliche Jugendarbeit zweifeind.
vielleicht sogar ein wenig miBtrauisch begleiten und kommentieren,
sage ich: Wer sich nicht bewegt, spurt die Fesseln nicht.
Solidarisches Denken und Handeln, uber die ...
[End extracted text]

Title: Jugend '81: Lebensentwurfe, Alltagskulturen, Zukunftsbilder :
Studie, Volume 1
Volume 9 of [Jugendstudie / Jugendwerk der Deutschen Shell]
Editor: Arthur Fischer
Contributors: Arthur Fischer, Deutsche Shell AG. Jugendwerk, Psydata,
Institut fur Marktanalysen, Sozial- und Mediaforschung
Edition 2
Publisher: Leske + Budrich, 1982
(Google Books snippet; data may be inaccurate and must be verified)

[Begin extracted text]
... weil man machen kann, was man will, aber wichtig dabei ist, daB
man immer will, was man macht - Seht die Behinderten wie uns auch an -
Wer sich nicht bewegt, der spurt die Fesseln nicht - Ich suche den
Frieden und beginne bei mir - Die ...
[End extracted text]


On Wed, Jun 3, 2015 at 11:07 AM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at yale.edu> wrote:
> The quotation "Those who do not move, do not notice their chains" is frequently attributed to Rosa Luxemburg.  I am trying to trace the earliest attribution to Luxemburg, or to anyone else if there were other attributions predating the ones to her, and would welcome any citations or pointers to possible occurrences.
> Fred Shapiro
> _______________________________________________
> Project Wombat - Project-Wombat
> list at project-wombat.org
> http://www.project-wombat.org/

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