The legacy of Karl Kautsky
Presented on a Platypus Affiliated Society on-line public forum panel discussion with Adam Sacks (Jacobin magazine contributor), Ben Lewis (Communist Party of Great Britain) and Jason Wright (Bolshevik Tendency) on Saturday September 5, 2020. Transcribed and published in The Platypus Review 136 (May 2021) Latest 2019 August.
For me, the question of the legacy of Karl Kautsky’s Marxism is not as a Marxist, but rather as the Marxist. He was the theorist, not of capitalism or socialism, but of the working class’s struggle for socialism, the social and political movement and most of all the political party that issued from this movement and struggle. Kautsky articulated the historical and strategic perspective and the self-understanding of the proletarian socialist party. He helped formulate the political program of Marxism — the Erfurt Programme in which the German Social-Democratic Party became officially Marxist — and explained it with particular genius 지 파일. He was not a theorist of German socialism but rather of the world-historic social and political task of socialism, for the entire Socialist International.
He was rightly if ironically called the “Pope of Marxism,” and this meant as a world political movement, indeed of the world party for socialism, in every country Download the softwareserial.h library. For instance his writings converted the American socialist Eugene Debs to Marxism. Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, Trotsky and countless others learned Marxism from Kautsky. Kautsky provided the theoretical self-understanding and strategic vision for all Marxists and for the broader socialist movement led by Marxism throughout the world, precisely when Marxism was a mass form of social struggle and politics, and precisely when this was so in the core metropolitan advanced capitalist countries Download Minecraft 1.12.1 apk.
In this respect Kautsky was one of the greatest political leaders of all time, in all of world history. However, he was the leader of a movement that failed, for Marxism failed.
This makes Kautsky a peculiar historical figure, and makes his thought — as we inherit from his writings — a specific kind of object and legacy Gx log viewer. Kautsky explains something to us that no longer exists, namely the mass socialist political party and the class struggle for socialism of the working class, aiming for the world dictatorship of the proletariat taking over and transforming global capitalism.
Kautsky’s Marxism summarized and appropriated the entire history and experience of the socialist workers’ movement up to that point, namely, the radical tradition of the bourgeois revolution, the industrial social visions of the Utopian Socialists, the unfinished tasks of the failed revolutions of 1848, the civil collective and social cooperative movements of labor organizers and anarchists, and the party as what Ferdinand Lassalle called the “permanent political campaign of the working class” aiming to win the “battle of democracy.”
But the history of socialism had exhibited antagonisms and conflicts between its various aspects and protagonists. The disputes within socialism were considered by Marxism such as Kautsky’s as not mere differences and disagreements, but rather expressed the self-contradictory character of the struggle for socialism and its tasks. The question was how the working class must work through such self-contradiction.
One catch-phrase from 19th century history preceding Kautsky was “social and political action.” Kautsky understood the proletarianized working class’s struggle for socialism to require both kinds of activity, and moreover sought to combine them in the political party for socialism and its associated civil-social movement organizations. This is what Kautsky and the greater Second International Marxism meant by “social democracy,” a legacy of the unfulfilled tasks of 1848, to achieve the “social republic.” Marxists understood this to require the independent political and social action of the working class leading the broader discontented, exploited and oppressed masses under capitalism.
Otherwise, the task of socialism in capitalism was liable to fall out into an antinomy of having to choose between social movement activism and political activity. It was Kautsky’s Marxism’s ability to comprehend and transcend this antinomy and achieve the combined tasks of both.
This is what the subsequent socialist movement since Kautsky’s time — since the failure of Second International Marxism — has foundered upon, starting at least as early as the 1930s Old Left of Stalinism and reformist Social Democracy, and especially since the 1960s New Left and its eschewing of the tasks of building the political party for socialism.
The historical wound of this history we face is that the Kautskyan political party both made the revolution and prosecuted the counterrevolution. Both Social Democracy and “Marxist-Leninism” — Stalinism — are descended from Kauskyan socialism — from this history of Marxism.
But rather than engaging and trying to work through the problematic legacy of Kautsky’s Marxism, socialists and the greater Left — and indeed democracy — has drawn back and retreated from it — avoided it.
The reason the question of Kautsky’s legacy specifically as well as that of Marxism more generally returns periodically is that it represents the unfinished work and task of history that must still be worked through.
In one way or another, we must engage the tasks — and contradiction — of social and political action in capitalism that points beyond it to socialism. So long as this task remains we will be haunted by Kautsky’s Marxism. | P