Karl Kautsky

Czech-Austrian philosopher, journalist, and Marxist theoretician (1854-1938)

Karl Johann Kautsky (16 October 185417 October 1938) was a Czech-Austrian philosopher, journalist, and Marxist theoretician.  Kautsky was recognised as among the most authoritative promulgators of Orthodox Marxism after the death of Friedrich Engels in 1895 until the outbreak of World War I in 1914 and was called by some the "Pope of Marxism."  Following the war, Kautsky was an outspoken critic of the Bolshevik Revolution and its excesses, engaging in polemics with V. I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky on the nature of the Soviet state.

But if socialism is a social necessity, then it would be human nature and not socialism which would have to readjust itself, if ever the two clashed.

Quotes edit

  • Ist aber der Sozialismus eine gesellschaftliche Notwendigkeit, dann wäre, wenn er in Konflikt mit der Menschennatur käme, diese es, die den Kürzeren ziehen würde und nicht der Sozialismus.
    • Preface to Atlanticus, Produktion und Konsum im Sozialstaat (Production and Consumption in the Social State or in the Welfare State; Stuttgart: Verlag J.H.W. Dietz Nachf, 1989), p. xiv.
    • Translation:
  • When brought to the proletariat from the capitalist class, science is invariably adapted to suit capitalist interests. What the proletariat needs is a scientific understanding of its own position in society. That kind of science a worker cannot obtain in the officially and socially approved manner. The proletarian himself must develop his own theory. For this reason he must be completely self-taught.

Hitlerism and Social Democracy (1934) edit

published by the American League for Democratic Socialism, 1934

  • Our duty is not merely to abolish the capitalist order but to set up a higher order in its place. But we must oppose those forces aiming to destroy capitalism only in order to replace it with another barbarous mode of production.
    • Chap. V, The Period of Dictatorship
  • The choice of methods and weapons to be used by the champions of democracy will not depend upon our wishes but will be determined by political and social conditions. and especially by the methods and weapons of the enemy.
    • Chap. V, The Period of Dictatorship
  • He who thinks that lasting peace can be brought about by means of war, “the last war,” is wrong. Equally wrong are those who imagine that the working class can be assured prosperity and freedom by organizing economic life an a militaristic basis. No less erroneous is it to strive for a dictatorship for the purpose of crushing the enemy and establishing the proletariat in a privileged position in the state and Society while reducing the rest of the population to the position of pariahs as a means of establishing ultimately socialist equality for all. But most objectionable of all would it be to attempt to build a regime of humanity upon the basis of brutality.
    • Chap. V, The Period of Dictatorship
  • Dictators may torture or kill us, but they shall not succeed in demoralizing the soul of our movement, in bringing it to a state where for the sake of saving its life it is willing to renounce its ideal. Our cause will conquer in spite of everything, for in economic life as well as in politics the highest ability to accomplish and to advance things belongs to communities and organizations of free men working in free cooperation. These free communities will far outstrip every collective body, every organization that is built on compulsion and that can be maintained only by brute force; and ultimately the communities based on oppression will perish.
    • Chap. V, The Period of Dictatorship
  • Under all circumstances we shall remain the champions of democracy and humanity. We reject as senseless and cruel and ruinous to both our cause and our nation the suggestion that we strive to arrive at humanity by the method of brutality.
    • Chap. V, The Period of Dictatorship

Marxism and Bolshevism: Democracy and Dictatorship (1934) edit

published by the American League for Democratic Socialism, 1934

  • The worst reproach that Engels could make against the first English Marxists was that they were applying Marxism in a sectarian spirit. What would he have said, had he lived to see it, about a school of Marxists who after succeeding in capturing the state power proceeded to make a state religion of Marxism, a religion whose articles of faith and their interpretation are watched over by the government, a religion, the criticism of which, nay, the slightest deviation from which, is sternly punished by the State; a Marxism ruling by the methods of the Spanish Inquisition, propagated with fire and sword, practicing a theatrical ritual, as illustrated by the embalmed body of Lenin: a Marxism reduced to the status not only of a state religion but of a medieval or oriental faith? Such a Marxism may indeed be called a doctrinaire fanaticism.
    • Chap. I, The Beginnings of Marxism
  • The Bolsheviki under Lenin's leadership, however, succeeded in capturing control of the armed forces in Petrograd and later in Moscow and thus laid the foundation for a new dictatorship in place of the old Czarist dictatorship.
    • Chap. IV, Democracy and Dictatorship
  • According to the laws of social development established by Marx, a backward agricultural country cannot show the way to Socialism to other countries. Its failure in this respect is foreordained. It is merely a question of when and how this failure will finally manifest itself. Until now the Bolsheviki have been skillful in disguising their failure under the mask of promises of a glorious future. The last such promise was the Five-Year plan. But the Bolshevist state economy has been in existence now more than fifteen years. For more than ten years the USSR has been enjoying complete peace. And yet, contrary to all promises, things under the Bolshevist state economy have been getting worse every year, (excepting the short period of the Nep), and the day is not far distant when even the most credulous will become convinced that the Bolshevist way leads not upward, toward Socialism, but downward, to open ruin or slow disintegration.
    • Chap. IV, Democracy and Dictatorship
  • I expect that soon the failure of the attempts to transform Russia into a Socialist community by methods of dictatorship will become apparent to all. The failure of the Communist experiment in Russia, however, does not mean the downfall of the Bolshevik regime. The two things are not necessarily linked together. Nay, they are mutually exclusive. The same backwardness that makes Socialism in Russia at the present time impossible favors the strengthening of despotism once it has taken root.
    • Chap. IV, Democracy and Dictatorship

Quotes about Kautsky edit

  • Karl Kautsky, who was of Czech parentage but lived most of his life in Germany, also attacked Bernstein, but from a more centrist position than that of the fiery Luxemburg. Kautsky had at one time been a Marxist theorist much admired by Lenin, although as early as 1893 he had displayed a more sympathetic attitude to parliamentarism, writing that ‘a genuine parliamentary regime can be just as good an instrument for the dictatorship of the proletariat as it is an instrument for the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie’. Later not only Kautsky, but also the more radical Luxemburg, who had scathingly attacked Bernstein for his notion of evolutionary socialism, were to point to the dictatorial implications of the seizure of power in Russia by Lenin and the Bolsheviks.
    • Archie Brown, The Rise and Fall of Communism (2009), p. 39
  • Kautsky knew as well as Bernstein that advanced industrial societies were changing in ways unpredicted by Marx and Engels. But he set himself up as the Pope of Marxism in opposition to Bernstein as Anti-Pope. He protected 'orthodoxy' against attacks on its fundamental doctrines. He honoured the legacy of Marxism's co-founders. He wrote a lengthy disquisition on the agrarian question querying the evidence and analysis adduced by Eduard David. Nor did he fail to stress that developments around the world in industrial organization were following the path predicted by Marx and Engels.
    • Robert Service, Comrades! A History of World Communism, pp. 40-41
  • Der naheliegende Einwand, daß es für den einzelnen nur sehr wenig ins Gewicht fällt, ob er selbst fleißig und eifrig ist, daß es für ihn wichtiger ist, daß alle anderen es sind, wird von ihnen entweder gar nicht oder in unzulänglicher Weise berücksichtigt.  Sie glauben, auf dem kategorischen Imperativ allein das sozialistische Gemeinwesen aufbauen zu können.  Wie leicht sie es sich dabei zu machen pflegen, zeigt wohl am besten Kautsky, der die Behauptung aufstellt:  »Ist der Sozialismus eine gesellschaftliche Notwendigkeit, dann wäre, wenn er in Konflikt mit der Menschennatur käme, diese es, die den Kürzeren ziehen würde, und nicht der Sozialismus«.  Das ist reinster Utopismus.
  • Hitler's seizure of power in Germany dumfounded the whole Socialist world. German socialism had long been looked upon by the more conservative Socialist groups as a shining example. After all, it was the movement that had produced Bebel and Kautsky; its membership ran into the millions; it had organized powerful and wealthy labor and co-operative movements.
    • Murray B. Seidler, Norman Thomas: Respectable Rebel, Syracuse University Press (1961) p. 113

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