Karl Kautsky

1914: How the 2nd International failed

Over and over, the 2nd International and its member parties had warned the workers of the coming war and threatened the ruling classes with their own overthrow should they dare launch Armageddon. And yet in August 1914, the International disintegrated, blown away like insubstantial dust, as one after the other its leaders and parliamentary deputies betrayed their most solemn promises, voted war credits and called the workers to the slaughter.

How could such a disaster happen?

1914: how German socialism came to betray the workers

In 1914, the German Social-Democratic Party was the most powerful party of the Second International. With more than one million members, it was the largest single political party in Europe and the largest party in any European parliament. Socialists throughout the world, faced with the threat of war in the last days before that fateful 4th August, waited for the SPD to live up to its solemn commitments made at the International's congresses at Stuttgart and Basel, and oppose the war. Yet on 4th August, the SPD parliamentary fraction voted for the Imperial government's war credits, and the way to war was open.

How the German Party degenerated in the years leading up to 1914 to the point where it betrayed its most fundamental principles, and the struggle of the left in the party against this degeneration, is the subject of the article that follows.

Darwin and the Workers Movement

This year sees the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth (and the passing of 150 years since the publication of Origin of Species). The marxist wing of the workers' movement has always saluted Darwin's outstanding contributions to humanity's understanding of itself and nature.

Germany 1918-19 (i): Faced with the war, the revolutionary proletariat renews its internationalist principles

It is 90 years since the proletarian revolution reached its tragic culmination point with the struggles of 1918 and 1919 in Germany. After the heroic seizure of power by the Russian proletariat in October 1917, the central battlefield of the world revolution shifted to Germany. There, the decisive struggle was waged and lost. The world bourgeoisie has always wanted to sink these events into historical oblivion. To the extent that it cannot deny that struggles took place, it pretends that they only aimed at "peace" and "democracy" - at the blissful conditions presently reigning in capitalist Germany. The goal of the series of articles we are beginning here is to show that the revolutionary movement in Germany brought the bourgeoisie in the central country of European capitalism close to the brink of the loss of its class rule. Despite its defeat, the revolution in Germany, like that in Russia, is an encouragement to us today. It reminds us that it is not only necessary but possible to topple the rule of world capitalism.

1905: the mass strike opens the door to the proletarian revolution

From the beginning of the first series of these articles, we argued against the cliché that 'communism is a nice idea, but it could never work' by affirming, with Marx, that communism is not at all reducible to a 'nice idea', but is organically contained in the class struggle of the proletariat. Communism is not an abstract utopia dreamed up by a few well-intentioned visionaries; it is a movement given birth by the very conditions of present day society. And yet, that first series was very much a study of the 'ideas' of communists during the ascendant period of capitalism - an examination of how their conception of the future society and the way to achieve it developed during the course of the 19th century, before the communist revolution was on the immediate historical agenda.

The Revolutionary Perspective Obscured by Parliamentary Illusions

At the end of the last article in this series, we looked at the principle danger posed to the social democratic parties operating at the zenith of capitalism’s historical development: the divorce between the fight for immediate reforms and the overall goal of communism. The growing success of these parties both in winning ever increasing numbers of workers to their cause, and in extracting concessions from the bourgeoisie through the parliamentary and trade union struggles, was accompanied, and indeed partly contributed to, the development of the ideologies of reformism...

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