Circular Letter to August Bebel, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Wilhelm Bracke and Others (2)
Published: Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;
First Published: in Die Kommunistische Internationale, XII, Jahrg., Heft 23, June 15, 1931
[Note: Engels wrote this letter in the name of himself and Marx to the members of the leading group of German Social-Democracy. It is among the most important documents in which the revolutionary proletarian line of Marx and Engels is revealed. Here we see that a consistent struggle was conducted by the founders of scientific Communism against opportunism in the German Social-Democratic movement. Marx and Engels had already long been following with growing mistrust the increasing influence of petty-bourgeois elements in the Party leadership and the insufficient fight put up by the Party against them. The open and organised emergence of the group around Höchberg, in connection with the foundation of the Sozial-Demokrat in Zürich, caused Marx and Engels to intervene. Especially the publication of the Zürich Yearbook for Socialist Science and Politics with the article “The Socialist Movement in Germany in Retrospect” (signed with three asterisks, as the disguise of Höchberg, Bernstein and Schramm) induced Marx and Engels to define their fundamental attitude to the opportunist danger in the German Party and to place before the Party leadership with the greatest sharpness the choice between a break with opportunism on their part or a break with the Party on the part of Marx and Engels. In his letter to Marx on September 9, 1879, Engels puts the question of the necessity for intervention: “I shall really have to answer Bebel at last... the Yearbook ...fortunately enables us simply to give these people definitely the reasons why it is absolutely impossible for us to co-operate with an organ in which Höchberg has anything whatever to say. ... I think you will also be of the opinion that after this business we should do well to define our standpoint at least to the Leipzigers [the Party Executive]. If the new Party organ sings Höchberg's tune it may become necessary to do this publicly. If you will send me the things ... I will draft a letter to Bebel and send it you.” Marx answered on September 10 and insisted that the most decided tone should be taken towards Leipzig. “Liebknecht has no judgment. The letters prove what they should refute, namely, our original view that the thing was given away in Leipzig, while the Zürichers proceeded according to the conditions laid down for them. ... I fully share your opinion that there is no more time to be lost in announcing bluntly and ruthlessly our view of the Yearbook drivel.... If they carry on in the same way with their Party organ we must publicly repudiate them. In these matters there is no longer any question of good nature.”]
(1) The negotiations with C. Hirsch.[edit source]
Liebknecht asks Hirsch if he will take over the editorship of the Party organ which is to be newly established in Zürich. Hirsch wants information as to the finances of the paper: what funds are at its disposal and who provides them. The first, in order to know whether the paper will be bound to fade out after a few months. And then to make sure who holds the purse strings and with them the ultimate control over the line of the paper. Liebknecht’s answer to Hirsch : “Everything all right, you will hear the rest from Zürich “(Liebknecht to Hirsch, July 28) does not reach him. But from Zürich comes a letter to Hirsch from Bernstein (July 24) in which Bernstein announces that “we have been charged with the launching and supervision” (of the paper). A discussion had taken place “between Viereck and us” in which it had been felt “that your position, owing to the differences which you had with individual comrades when you were a Laterne [Lantern] man would be made rather difficult; but I do not attach much weight to this objection.” Not a word about the financing.
Hirsch replies by return on July 26, with the question as to the material position of the paper. What comrades have pledged themselves to cover the deficit? Up to what amount and for how long? The question of the editor’s salary plays no part at all here, all Hirsch wants to know is if “the means are ensured for guaranteeing the paper for at least a year.”
Bernstein answers on July 31: Any deficit will be covered by voluntary contributions, of which some (!) are already subscribed. To Hirsch’s remarks about the line he thought of giving to the paper, dealt with below, he replies with disapproving remarks and instructions: “On which the supervisory committee must insist all the more since it is itself in its turn under control, i.e., responsible. On these points you will therefore have to come to an understanding with the supervisory committee.” An early and if possible telegraphic reply desired.
Thus instead of an answer to his legitimate questions Hirsch receives the information that he is to edit the paper under a supervisory committee seated in Zürich, whose views differ very essentially from his own and whose members are not even named to him!
Justly indignant at this treatment, Hirsch prefers to come to an understanding with the Leipzig people. His letter of August 2 to Liebknecht must be known to you, as Hirsch expressly required that you and Viereck should be informed. Hirsch is even willing to submit to a supervisory committee in Zürich, up to the point of agreeing that it should have the right to make written observations to the editor and to appeal to the decision of the Leipzig control committee.
In the meantime Liebknecht writes on July 28 to Hirsch:
“Of course, the undertaking is financed, as the whole Party (including) Höchberg stands behind it. But I am not troubling myself about details.”
Liebknecht’s next letter again contains nothing about the finances, but the assurance instead that the Zürich committee is not an editorial committee at all but is only entrusted with the management and finances. Again on August 14 Liebknecht writes the same to me and demands that we persuade Hirsch to accept. Even on August 20 you yourself are so little informed of the true facts of the case that you write to me: “He (Höchberg) has no more voice in the editing of the paper than any other well-known Party comrade.”
At last on August 11 Hirsch gets a letter from Viereck in which it is admitted that “the three residing in Zürich are to take the foundation of the paper in hand as an editorial committee and with the agreement of the three Leipzig members to choose an editor.... So far as I recollect, the decisions communicated to us also stated that the (Zürich) organisation committee mentioned in (2) should take over the political as well as the financial responsibility in relation to the Party! ...From this position of affairs it seems to me to follow that...there can be no question of taking over the editorship without the co-operation of the three domiciled in Zürich who have been commissioned by the Party to start the paper.” Here at last Hirsch had at least something definite, if only regarding the relation of the editor to the Zürich people. They are an editorial committee; they also have the political responsibility; without their co-operation no one can take over the editorship. In short, an indication is simply given to Hirsch that he should come to an understanding with the three people in Zürich whose names are still not given him.
To complete the confusion, however, Liebknecht writes a postscript to Viereck’s letter: “S[inger] from B[erlin] has just been here and reported: the supervisory committee in Zürich is not, as Viereck thinks, an Editorial committee but essentially a management committee financially responsible to the party, i.e., to us, for the paper; naturally it is also the right and the duty of its members to discuss the editing with you (a right and a duty which belong, incidentally, to every Party member): they have not the authority to act as your guardians.”
The three Zürich and the one Leipzig committee members – the only one present at the negotiations – insist that Hirsch shall be under the official control of the Zürich people. A second Leipzig member directly denies this. And Hirsch is expected to come to a decision before the gentlemen are agreed among themselves? That Hirsch had the right to be informed of the decisions come to, which contained the conditions he was expected to submit to, was thought of all the less because it never once seems to have occurred to the Leipzigers to get authentic information themselves about these decisions. How else could the above contradiction have been possible?
If the Leipzigers cannot agree as to the powers conferred upon the Zürichers, the Zürichers themselves are perfectly clear about them.
Schramm to Hirsch, August 14: “If you had not written at the time that you would do just the same in a similar case (to the Kayser case) and thus indicated the prospect of a similar style of writing, we should not waste a word over it. But in view of your declaration we must reserve to ourselves the right of having a decisive vote in the acceptance of articles for the new paper.”
The letter to Bernstein in which Hirsch is stated to have said this was dated July 26, that is to say long after the conference in Zürich at which the plenary powers of the three Zürichers were established. But the Zürichers are already revelling so much in the sense of their absolute bureaucratic power that in answer to this later letter of Hirsch they already claim further authority to decide upon the acceptance of articles. The editorial committee is already a censorship committee.
It was not until Höchberg came to Paris that Hirsch learned from him the names of the members of the two committees. If therefore the negotiations with Hirsch fell through, what was the reason?
(a) The obstinate refusal both of the Leipzig and the Zürich people to give him any concrete information as to the financial basis of the paper and therefore as to the possibility of maintaining the paper in existence, if only for a year. He first learnt the amount of the sum subscribed from me here (after your communication to me). It was therefore hardly possible to draw any other conclusion from the information already given (the Party + Höchberg) than that the paper was either already mainly financed by Höchberg or else would soon be completely dependent on his subsidies. And this latter possibility is still far from being excluded. The sum of 800 marks, if I am reading correctly, is exactly the same as the Association here had to contribute to Freiheit in the first half year.
(b) The repeated assurances of Liebknecht, since proved totally false, that the Zürichers were to have no official control of the editing at all and the comedy of errors which arose from this.
(c) The certainty finally attained that the Zürichers were not only to control, but themselves to censor the editing and that the part allotted to Hirsch was that of a dummy.
When he thereupon refused the offer one can only say he was right. The Leipzig committee, as we heard from Höchberg, has been further strengthened by the addition of two members who do not live there; so it can only intervene rapidly if the three Leipzigers are unanimous. This completely transfers the real centre of gravity to Zürich, and in the long run Hirsch would no more have been able to work with the people there than would any other editor of really proletarian and revolutionary views. On this later.
(2) The proposed line of the paper.[edit source]
Bernstein has already informed Hirsch on July 24 that the differences he had had as a Laterne man with individual comrades would make his position difficult.
Hirsch replies that in his opinion the general line of the paper must be the same as that of the Laterne, i.e., one which avoids prosecution in Switzerland and does not cause unnecessary alarm in Germany. He asks who the comrades are and continues: “I only know one, and I can promise you that in a similar case of breach of discipline I should treat him in exactly the same way.”
To which Bernstein, conscious of his new official dignity as censor, replies: As to the line of the paper, the view of the supervisory committee is in fact that the Laterne should not be its model; in our opinion the paper should not be so much taken up with political radicalism but rather kept socialist in principle. Cases like the attack on Kayser, which was disapproved of by every comrade without exception (!) must be avoided in all circumstances.”
And so on and so on. Liebknecht calls the attack on Kayser “a blunder” and Schramm considers it so dangerous that he thereupon puts Hirsch under censorship.
Hirsch again writes to Höchberg, saying that a case like that of Kayser “cannot occur if an official party organ is in existence whose clear statements and well-intentioned indications cannot be so brazenly thrown to the winds by a deputy.”
Viereck, too, writes that “a dispassionate attitude, and the ignoring so far as possible of any differences which have occurred... are laid down” for the new paper, it is not to be an “enlarged Laterne” and Bernstein “could at most be reproached for a too moderate tendency, if that is a reproach at a time when we cannot after all sail under our full colours.”
And what is this Kayser case, this unforgivable crime which Hirsch is supposed to have committed? Kayser is the only one among the Social-Democratic deputies who spoke and voted in the Reichstag for protective tariffs. Hirsch accuses him of having committed a breach of Party discipline because Kayser:
(1) Voted for indirect taxation, the abolition of which is expressly demanded in the Party programme;
(2) Voted supplies to Bismarck, thus breaking the first fundamental rule of all our Party tactics: not a farthing to this government.
On both points Hirsch is undeniably right. And after Kayser had trampled underfoot on the one hand the Party programme, to which the deputies are, so to speak, sworn by a Congress decision, and on the other hand the very first and most imperative fundamental rule of Party tactics, and voted money to Bismarck as thanks for the Socialist Law, Hirsch in our opinion was absolutely right to let fly at him as roughly as he did.
We have never been able to understand why this attack on Kayser could have aroused such violent wrath in Germany. Höchberg now informs me that the “fraction” gave Kayser permission to come out as he did and that this permission is considered to exonerate Kayser.
If this is the position of affairs it is really a bit strong. In the first place Hirsch could know no more of this secret decision than the rest of the world. Then the discredit for the Party, which previously could be diverted on to Kayser alone, is made all the greater by this business, as is also the service performed by Hirsch in openly exposing the disgusting phraseology and even more disgusting vote of Kayser to the whole world and thus saving the honour of the Party. Or is German Social-Democracy really infected by the parliamentary disease and does it believe that through election by the people the Holy Ghost is poured out upon the elected, fraction meetings are transformed into infallible Councils and fraction decisions into unassailable dogmas?
It is true that a blunder has been committed, not however by Hirsch, but by the deputies who covered Kayser by their resolution. If those whose special duty it is to pay attention to the maintenance of Party discipline themselves break Party discipline so glaringly by a decision of this kind, so much the worse. Still worse, however, when people advance to the belief that it was not Kayser by his speech and vote or the other deputies by their resolution who violated Party discipline, but Hirsch, because despite the decision, which, moreover, was still unknown to him, he attacked Kayser.
For the rest, it is clear that on the tariff question the Party took up the same confused and indecisive attitude as it had done hitherto on almost all economic questions which have become practical ones, e.g., the imperial railways. This is due to the fact that the Party organs, especially Vorwärts [Forward], instead of thoroughly discussing these questions have preferred to concern themselves with the construction of the future order of society. When, after the Socialist Law, the tariff question suddenly became a practical one, the most varied shades of opinion arose and there was not a single person on the spot who possessed the prerequisite for the formation of a clear and correct judgment: knowledge of the conditions of German industry and its position on the world market. Among the electorate it was inevitable that tendencies in favour of protection should appear here and there and there was a wish to take these into consideration too. The only way of getting out of this confusion, by taking the question in a purely political way (as was done in the Laterne), was not decisively adopted; thus it was inevitable that in this debate the Party should have come out for the first time in a hesitating, uncertain and confused manner and finally, with and through Kayser, thoroughly discredited itself.
The attack on Kayser is now made the occasion for preaching to Hirsch in every key that the new paper must on no account copy the “excesses” of the Laterne and should not be so much taken up with political radicalism as kept to a dispassionate line, socialist in principle. And this by Viereck as much as by Bernstein, who, just because he is too moderate, seems to the former to be the right man, because one cannot after all sail under one’s full colours at present.
But why emigrate at all, if not in order to be able to sail under one’s full colours? There is nothing to prevent this abroad. The German Press, Assembly and Penal Laws do not exist in Switzerland. It is therefore not only possible but a duty to say things there which could not be said at home, under the ordinary German laws, even before the Socialist Law. For here we stand not only before Germany but before Europe, and it is a duty, so far as the Swiss laws permit of it, to state to Europe the methods and aims of the German Party without concealment. Anyone who wants to bind himself by German laws in Switzerland would only prove that he was worthy of these German laws and in fact had nothing to say which was not permissible in Germany before the Exceptional Laws. Nor should any consideration be paid to the possibility that the editors will be temporarily cut off from a return to Germany. He who is not ready to risk this is not fit for such an exposed post of honour.
And further. The Exceptional Laws have banned and outlawed the German Party precisely because it was the only serious opposition party in Germany. If, in an organ published abroad, the Party shows its gratitude to Bismarck by giving up this role of the only serious opposition party, by coming out nice and docile and accepting the kick with a dispassionate attitude, it only proves that it deserved the kick. Of all the German papers produced in emigration abroad since 1830, the Laterne is certainly one of the most moderate. But if even the Laterne was too bold – then the new organ can only compromise the Party in the eyes of its sympathisers in non-German countries.
(3) The Manifesto of the three Zürichers.[edit source]
In the meantime Höchberg’s Yearbook has reached us, containing an article “The Socialist Movement in Germany in Retrospect,” which, as Höchberg himself tells me, has been written by these same three members of the Zürich Commission. Here we have their authentic criticism of the movement up till now and with it their authentic programme for the line of the new organ, in so far as this depends on them.
Right at the beginning we read:
“The movement which Lassalle regarded as an eminently political one, to which he summoned not only the workers but all honest democrats, at the head of which were to march the independent representatives of science and all who were imbued with a true love for humanity, was diminished under the presidency of Johann Baptist Schweitzer into a one-sided struggle for the interests of the industrial workers.”
I will not examine whether or how far this is historically accurate. The special reproach here brought against Schweitzer is that he diminished Lassalleanism, which is here taken as a bourgeois democratic-philanthropic movement, into a one-sided struggle for the interests of the industrial workers, by deepening its character as a class struggle of the industrial workers against the bourgeoisie. He is further reproached with his “rejection of bourgeois democracy.” And what has bourgeois democracy to do with the Social-Democratic Party? If it consists of “honest men” it cannot wish for admittance, and if it does nevertheless wish to be admitted this can only be in order to start a row.
The Lassallean party “chose to conduct itself in the most one-sided way as a workers’ party.” The gentlemen who write that are themselves members of a Party which conducts itself in the most one-sided way as a workers’ Party, they are at present invested with offices and dignities in this Party. Here there is an absolute incompatibility. If they mean what they write they must leave the Party, or at least resign their offices and dignities. If they do not do so, they are admitting that they are proposing to utilise their official position in order to combat the proletarian character of the Party. If therefore the Party leaves them their offices and dignities it will be betraying itself.
In the opinion of these gentlemen, then, the Social-Democratic Party should not be a one-sided workers’ Party but an all-sided Party of “everyone imbued with a true love of humanity.” It must prove this above all by laying aside its crude proletarian passions and placing itself under the guidance of educated, philanthropic bourgeois in order to “cultivate good taste” and learn good form” (page 85). Then even the “disreputable behaviour” of many leaders will give way to a thoroughly respectable “bourgeois behaviour.” (As if the externally disreputable behaviour of those here referred to were not the least they can be reproached with!) Then, too, “numerous adherents from the circles of the educated and propertied classes will make their appearance. But these must first be won if the ... agitation conducted is to attain tangible successes.”
German Socialism has “attached too much importance to the winning of the masses and in so doing has neglected energetic (!) propaganda among the so-called upper strata of society.” And then “the Party still lacks men fitted to represent it in the Reichstag.” It is, however, “desirable and necessary to entrust the mandate to men who have the time and opportunity to make themselves thoroughly acquainted with the relevant materials. The simple worker and small self-employed man...has the necessary leisure for this only in rare and exceptional cases.” So elect bourgeois!
In short: the working class of itself is incapable of its own emancipation. For this purpose it must place itself under the leadership of “educated and propertied” bourgeois who alone possess the “time and opportunity” to acquaint themselves with what is good for the workers.
And secondly the bourgeoisie is on no account to be fought against but – to be won over by energetic propaganda.
But if one wants to win over the upper strata of society, or only its well-disposed elements, one must not frighten them on any account. And here the three Zürichers think they have made a reassuring discovery:
“Precisely at the present time, under the pressure of the Socialist Law, the Party is showing that it is not inclined to pursue the path of violent bloody revolution but is determined ... to follow the path of legality, i.e., of reform.” So if the 500,000 to 600,000 Social-Democratic voters – between a tenth and an eighth of the whole electorate and distributed over the whole width of the land – have the sense not to run their heads against a wall and to attempt a “bloody revolution” of one against ten, this proves that they also forbid themselves to take advantage at any future time of a tremendous external event, a sudden revolutionary upsurge arising from it, or even a victory of the people gained in a conflict resulting from it. If Berlin should ever again be so uneducated to have a March 18, the Social Democrats, instead of taking part in the fight as “riff-raff with a mania for barricades” (page 88), must rather “follow the path of legality,” act pacifically, clear away the barricades and if necessary march with the glorious army against the rough uneducated one-sided masses. Or if the gentlemen assert that this is not what they meant, what did they mean then?
But still better follows.
“The more quiet, objective and well-considered the Party is, therefore, in the way it comes out with criticism of existing conditions and proposals for changes in them, the less possible will a repetition become of the present successful strategy (when the Socialist Law was introduced) by which the conscious reaction has intimidated the bourgeoisie by fear of the Red bogey.” (Page 88.)
In order to relieve the bourgeoisie of the last trace of anxiety it must be clearly and convincingly proved to them that the Red bogey is really only a bogey, and does not exist. But what is the secret of the Red bogey if it is not the bourgeoisie’s dread of the inevitable life-and-death struggle between it and the proletariat? Dread of the inevitable decision of the modern class struggle? Do away with the class struggle and the bourgeoisie and “all independent people” will “not be afraid to go hand in hand with the proletariat.” And the ones to be cheated will be precisely the proletariat.
Let the Party therefore prove by its humble and repentant attitude that it has once and for all laid aside the “improprieties and excesses” which provoked the Socialist Law. If it voluntarily promises that it only intends to act within the limits of the Socialist Law, Bismarck and the bourgeoisie will surely have the kindness to repeal this then superfluous law!
"Let no one misunderstand us"; we do not want “to give up our Party and our programme, but think that for years hence we shall have enough to do if we concentrate our whole strength and energy upon the attainment of certain immediate aims which must in any case be achieved before the realisation of the more far-reaching ends can be thought of.” Then the bourgeois, petty bourgeois and workers who are “at present frightened away...by the far-reaching demands will join us in masses.”
The programme is not to be given up but only postponed – to an indefinite period. One accepts it, though not really for oneself and one’s own lifetime but posthumously as an heirloom to be handed down to one’s children and grandchildren. In the meantime one devotes one’s “whole strength and energy” to all sorts of petty rubbish and the patching up of the capitalist order of society, in order at least to produce the appearance of something happening without at the same time scaring the bourgeoisie. There I must really praise the Communist, Miquel, who proved his unshakable belief in the inevitable overthrow of capitalist society in the course of the next few hundred years by heartily carrying on swindles, contributing his honest best to the crash of 1873 and so really doing something to assist the collapse of the existing order.
Another offence against good form was also the “exaggerated attacks on the company promoters,” who were after all “only children of their time"; “the abuse of Strousberg and similar people ... would therefore have been better omitted.” Unfortunately everyone is only a “ child of his time” and if this is a sufficient excuse nobody ought ever to be attacked any more, all controversy, all struggle on our part ceases; we quietly accept all the kicks our adversaries give us because we, who are so wise, know that these adversaries are “only children of their time” and cannot act otherwise. Instead of repaying their kicks with interest we ought rather to pity these unfortunates.
Then again the Party’s support of the Commune had the disadvantage, nevertheless, “that people who were otherwise well disposed to us were alienated and in general the hatred of the bourgeoisie against us was increased.” And further, “the Party is not wholly without blame for the introduction of the October Law, for it had increased the hatred of the bourgeoisie In an unnecessary way.”
There you have the programme of the three censors of Zürich. In clarity it leaves nothing to be desired. Least of all to us, who are very familiar with the whole of this phraseology from the 1848 days. It is the representatives of the petty bourgeoisie who are here presenting themselves, full of anxiety that the proletariat, under the pressure of its revolutionary position, may “go too far.” Instead of decided political opposition, general compromise; instead of the struggle against the government and the bourgeoisie, an attempt to win and to persuade; instead of defiant resistance to ill-treatment from above, a humble submission and a confession that the punishment was deserved. Historically necessary conflicts are all re-interpreted as misunderstandings, and all discussion ends with the assurance that after all we are all agreed on the main point. The people who came out as bourgeois democrats in 1848 could just as well call themselves social-democrats now. To them the democratic republic was unattainably remote, and to these people the overthrow of the capitalist system is equally so, and therefore has absolutely no significance for practical present-day politics; one can mediate, compromise and philanthropise to one’s heart’s content. It is just the same with the class struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie. It is recognised on paper because its existence can no longer be denied, but in practice it is hushed up, diluted, attenuated.
The Social-Democratic Party is not to be a workers’ party, is not to burden itself with the hatred of the bourgeoisie or of anyone else; should above all conduct energetic propaganda among the bourgeoisie: instead of laying stress on far-reaching aims which frighten the bourgeoisie and are not, after all, attainable in our generation, it should rather devote its whole strength and energy to those small petty-bourgeois patching-up reforms which by providing the old order of society with new props may perhaps transform the ultimate catastrophe into a gradual, piecemeal and, so far as is possible, peaceful process of dissolution. These are the same people who under the pretence of indefatigable activity not only do nothing themselves but also try to prevent anything happening at all except chatter; the same people whose fear of every form of action in 1848 and 1849 obstructed the movement at every step and finally brought about its downfall; the same people who see a reaction and are then quite astonished to find themselves at last in a blind alley where neither resistance nor flight is possible; the same people who want to confine history within their narrow petty-bourgeois horizon and over whose heads history invariably proceeds to the order of the day.
As to their socialist content this has been adequately criticised already in the [Communist] Manifesto, chapter X, “German or True Socialism.” When the class struggle is pushed on one side as a disagreeable “crude” phenomenon, nothing remains as a basis for socialism but “true love of humanity” and empty phraseology about “justice.”
It is an inevitable phenomenon, rooted in the course of development, that people from what have hitherto been the ruling classes should also join the militant proletariat and contribute cultural elements to it. We clearly stated this in the [Communist] Manifesto. But here there are two points to be noted:
First, in order to be of use to the proletarian movement these people must also bring real cultural elements to it. But with the great majority of the German bourgeois converts that is not the case. Neither the Zukunft [Future] nor the Neue Gesellschaft [New Society] have contributed anything which could advance the movement one step further. Here there is an absolute lack of real cultural material, whether concrete or theoretical. In its place we get attempts to bring superficially adopted socialist ideas into harmony with the most varied theoretical standpoints which these gentlemen have brought with them from the university or elsewhere, and of which, owing to the process of decomposition in which the remnants of German philosophy are at present involved, each is more confused than the last. Instead of thoroughly studying the new science themselves to begin with, each of them preferred to trim it to fit the point of view he had already, made a private science of his own without more ado and at once came forward with the claim that he was ready to teach it. Hence there are about as many points of view among these gentry as there are heads; instead of producing clarity in a single case they have only produced desperate confusion – fortunately almost exclusively among themselves. Cultural elements whose first principle is to teach what they have not learnt can be very well dispensed with by the Party.
Secondly. If people of this kind from other classes join the proletarian movement, the first condition is that they should not bring any remnants of bourgeois, petty-bourgeois, etc., prejudices with them but should whole-heartedly adopt the proletarian point of view. But these gentlemen, as has been proved, are stuffed and crammed with bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideas. In such a petty-bourgeois country as Germany these ideas certainly have their own justification. But only outside the Social-Democratic Workers’ Party. If these gentlemen form themselves into a Social-Democratic Petty-Bourgeois Party they have a perfect right to do so; one could then negotiate with them, form a bloc according to circumstances, etc. But in a workers’ party they are an adulterating element. If reasons exist for tolerating them there for the moment, it is also a duty only to tolerate them, to allow them no influence in the Party leadership and to remain aware that a break with them is only a matter of time. The time, moreover, seems to have come. How the Party can tolerate the authors of this article in its midst any longer is to us incomprehensible. But if the leadership of the Party should fall more or less into the hands of such people then the Party will simply be castrated and proletarian energy will be at an end.
As for ourselves, in view of our whole past there is only one path open to us. For almost forty years we have stressed the class struggle as the immediate driving force of history, and in particular the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat as the great lever of the modern social revolution; it is therefore impossible for us to co-operate with people who wish to expunge this class struggle from the movement. When the International was formed we expressly formulated the battle-cry: the emancipation of the working class must be achieved by the working class itself. We cannot therefore co-operate with people who say that the workers are too uneducated to emancipate themselves and must first be freed from above by philanthropic bourgeois and petty bourgeois. If the new Party organ adopts a line corresponding to the views of these gentlemen, and is bourgeois and not proletarian, then nothing remains for us, much though we should regret it, but publicly to declare our opposition to it and to dissolve the solidarity with which we have hitherto represented the German Party abroad. But it is to be hoped that things will not come to that.